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Senior church leaders call on IMF and World Bank to cancel debts of poorest countries

by Will Maule
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A large group of senior Christian leaders have called upon the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to cancel debts for developing countries who are battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 140 leaders - including many cardinals, archbishops and heads of various different Christian denominations - sent the letter ahead of the IMF and World Bank's annual meetings scheduled for 16th-18th October - the meeting is set to address issues of debt relief for poor nations as part of a wider global economic recovery plan put together in response to the economic fallout caused by Covid-19. 

They encouraged the institutions to show “courageous leadership” and argued that debt cancellation “is the most immediate way to release the finance required to prevent millions of our sisters and brothers being needlessly pushed into poverty by the pandemic."

The letter continues: "Without the cancellation of debts, there remains a grave risk that developing countries will not have the money so desperately and urgently needed to halt the spread of the virus, to treat people suffering from the virus and to mitigate and recover from the economic and social destruction threatened by the virus." 

The letter's signatories, who include Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, echoed the recent call of Pope Francis for debts to be cancelled "in recognition of the severe impacts of the medical, social and economic crises” faced by vulnerable countries as a result of Covid-19. 

It continued: "To date, your institutions have taken several steps to respond to the crisis, including the IMF’s decision to cover debt payments owed over a six-month period for 28 countries, as well as the availability of new emergency finance from the IMF and World Bank worth $88 billion thus far.

"Yet these initiatives, though welcome, are insufficient and do not respond to the urgency and magnitude of the crisis. Without the cancellation of debts, there remains a grave risk that developing countries will not have the money so desperately and urgently needed to halt the spread of the virus, to treat people suffering from the virus and to mitigate and recover from the economic and social destruction threatened by the virus.

"Both of your institutions hold significant reserves in US dollars and in gold, which are held for such a time as this. It is therefore essential that these reserves are used to relieve the burden of debts for countries in precarious need.

"The role of the IMF and World Bank is central to tackling this crisis in a way that prioritises the needs of the most vulnerable people, learns from the past and seeks to heal and rebuild our world.

"As you meet this week, we continue to pray for you and remain committed to ongoing cooperation." 

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