Finance delegates from the Group of 20 major economies agreed on Wednesday to suspend debt service payments for the world’s poorest nations through the end of the year, a move quickly matched by a group of thousands of private creditors.
The actions to freeze both principal repayments and interest funds will free up over $20 billion for the nations to spend on improving their health programs and fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told reporters after a virtual assembly of G20 finance officials.
Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 conferences this year. Wednesday’s video convention meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors ran effectively over the scheduled two hours, delaying media conferences planned by al-Jadaan and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.
The meeting came amid widespread criticism – along with from many G20 member countries – of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to briefly halt funding to the World Health Group over its handling of the COVID-19 illness pandemic, which has now killed 131,000 people.
The debt standstill offer is open to the world’s poorest and least-developed nations, as outlined by the World Bank and the UN, as long as they’re present in their debt service payments to the World Bank.