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International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and particularly the relationship between the IFIs and the United States.
Scott Morris is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and director of the US Development Policy Initiative. In addition to managing the center’s work on US development policy, his research addresses development finance issues, debt policy, governance issues at international financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF, and China’s role as a development actor.
Morris served as deputy assistant secretary for development finance and debt at the US Treasury Department during the first term of the Obama Administration. In that capacity, he led US engagement with the multilateral development bank, as well as US participation in the Paris Club of official creditors. He also represented the US government in the G-20’s Development Working Group and was the Treasury’s “+1” on the board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. During his time at Treasury, Morris led negotiations for four general capital increases at the multilateral development banks and replenishments of the International Development Association (IDA), Asian Development Fund, and African Development Fund.
Morris was a senior staff member on the Financial Services Committee in the US House of Representatives, where he was responsible for the Committee’s international policy issues, including the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 (the landmark reform of the CFIUS process), as well multiple reauthorizations of the US Export-Import Bank charter and approval of a $108 billion financing agreement for the International Monetary Fund in 2009. Previously, Morris was a vice president at the Committee for Economic Development in Washington, DC.
We visited the AIIB a few weeks ago, and heard more about the emerging AIIB model: What is likely to be the same—as at the five big legacy banks (the World Bank and the four regional development banks) and what is likely to be different.
The Trump administration has had very little to say about foreign assistance, apparently preferring to let the budget knife do its talking. But if we want to discern some sort of guiding philosophy to aid coming from this White House, perhaps we should look no further than aid to Israel and Egypt, the number one and number two overall US foreign aid recipients. In a budget that imposes double-digit cuts to programs aimed at disease eradication and response to humanitarian crises, military aid to these two countries has been cut not even by a whisker.
The US Development Policy Initiative at CGD has created the Foreign Assistance Agency Briefs for policymakers, researchers, advocates, and others that work on these issues and these agencies. Each brief outlines each agency’s mission and role, structure, historical budget, programs, and mechanisms for delivering foreign assistance.
Established in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was designed with a singular mission: toreduce poverty through economic growth. The agency’s approach reflects key principles of aid effectiveness, in particular, country selectivity, focus on results, and emphasis on local ownership.
Since 1971, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has served as the US government’s development finance institution. OPIC works to mobilize private capital to address development challenges while advancing US foreign policy priorities—furthering strategic, development, economic, and political objectives. OPIC aims to catalyze investment abroad through loans, guarantees, and insurance, which enable OPIC to complement rather than compete with the private sector. The independent agency also plays a key role in helping US investors gain a foothold in emerging markets and is barred from supporting projects that could have a negative impact on the US economy.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s new articles of agreement contain a great deal of information about shareholding and governance in the new institution. However, the articles require some additional analysis in order to answer key questions about voting power and board composition. Based on the information provided, we are able to generate voting shares as well as some preliminary conclusions about the composition of the AIIB’s board of directors.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead US development agency, managing roughly $20 billion in annual appropriations. The agency operates in over 120 countries, including the world’s poorest and most fragile. Its work spans a wide range of sectors, supporting humanitarian relief, economic growth, health, education, and more. USAID’s broad remit reflects the agency’s mission: “We partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity."
Attention presidential transition teams: the Rethinking US Development Policy team at the Center for Global Development strongly urges you to include these three big ideas in your first year budget submission to Congress and pursue these three smart reforms during your first year.
President Obama will deliver his 2014 State of the Union speech Tuesday, January 28. We polled CGD experts to find out what they’re hoping to hear when the president addresses Congress and the nation. Check out their oratorical contributions below and read about the development-related decisions and policies they would like to emerge in support of the rhetoric.
Researchers urge China to improve their debt practices and adopt standards
Center for Global Development
Washington – China’s Belt and Road Initiative – which plans to invest as much as $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Europe, Africa, and Asia – raises serious concerns about sovereign debt sustainability in eight countries it funds, according to a new study from the Center for Global Development.
The study evaluated the current and future debt levels of the 68 countries hosting BRI-funded projects. It found that of the 23 countries that are at risk of debt distress today, in eight of those countries, future BRI-related financing will significantly add to the risk of debt distress. You can see the full list of countries, their external debt levels, and China’s portion of that debt in the new study here.
“Belt and Road provides something that countries desperately want – financing for infrastructure,” said John Hurley, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development and a coauthor of the study. “But when it comes to this type of lending, there can be too much of a good thing.”
According to the study, China’s track record managing debt distress has been problematic, and unlike the world’s other leading government creditors, China has not signed on to a binding set of rules of the road when it comes to avoiding unsustainable lending and addressing debt problems when they arise.
“Our research makes clear that China needs to adopt standards and improve its debt practices – and soon,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a coauthor of the paper.
The study recommends that China:
Multilateralize the Belt and Road Initiative: Currently, the multilateral development institutions like the World Bank are lending their reputations to the broader initiative while only seeking to obtain operational standards that will apply to a very narrow slice of BRI projects: those financed by the MDBs themselves. Before going further, the MDBs should work toward a more detailed agreement with the Chinese government when it comes to the lending standards that will apply to any BRI project, no matter the lender.
Consider additional mechanisms to agree to lending standards: Some methods might include a post-Paris Club approach to collective creditor action, implementing a China-led G-20 sustainable financing agenda, and using China’s aid dollars to mitigate risks of default.
In all eight highest risk countries, the proportion of external debt that is owed to China and its banks will rise, sometimes dramatically, under the Belt and Road Initiative:
Pakistan: Pakistan, by far the largest country at high risk, currently projects an estimated $62 billion in additional debt, with China reportedly financing roughly 80 percent of that. Big-ticket BRI projects and the relatively high interest rates being charged by China add to Pakistan’s risk of debt distress.
Djibouti: The most recent IMF assessment stresses the extremely risky nature of Djibouti’s borrowing program, noting that in just two years, public external debt has increased from 50 to 85 percent of GDP, the highest of any low-income country. Much of the debt consists of government-guaranteed public enterprise debt and is owed to China Exim Bank.
Maldives: China is heavily involved in the Maldives’ three most prominent investment projects: an upgrade of the international airport costing around US$830 million, the development of a new population center and bridge near the airport costing around US$400 million, and the relocation of the major port (no cost estimate). The country is considered by the World Bank and the IMF to be at a high risk of debt distress and is currently being buffeted by domestic political turmoil.
Lao, P.D.R. (Laos): Laos, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, has several BRI-linked projects. The largest, a $6.7 billion China-Laos railway, represents almost half the country’s GDP, which led the IMF to warn that the project might threaten the country’s ability to service its debts.
Mongolia: Mongolia’s future economic prosperity depends on major infrastructure investments. Recognizing Mongolia’s difficult situation, China Exim Bank agreed in early 2017 to provide financing under its US$1 billion line of credit at concessional rates for a hydropower project and a highway project. If reports of an additional $30 billion in credit for BRI-related projects over the next five to ten years are true, then the prospect of a Mongolia default is extremely high, regardless of the concessional nature of the financing.
Montenegro: The World Bank estimates that public debt as a share of GDP will climb to a whopping 83 percent in 2018. The source of the problem is one very large infrastructure project, a motorway linking the port of Bar with Serbia that would integrate the Montenegrin transport network with other Baltic countries. The Montenegro authorities concluded an agreement with China Exim Bank in 2014 to finance 85 percent of the estimated US$1 billion cost for the first phase of the project, with the second and third phases likely to lead to default if financing is not provided on highly concessional terms.
Tajikistan: One of the poorest countries in Asia, Tajikistan is already assessed by the IMF and World Bank to be at “high risk” of debt distress. Despite this, it is planning to increase its external debt to pay for infrastructure investments in the power and transportation sectors. Debt to China, Tajikistan’s single largest creditor, accounts for almost 80 percent of the total increase in Tajikistan’s external debt over the 2007-2016 period.
Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan is a relatively poor country with significant new BRI-related infrastructure projects, much of it financed by external debt. China Exim Bank is the largest single creditor, with reported loans by the end of 2016 totaling US$1.5 billion, or roughly 40 percent of the country's total external debt. While currently considered to be at a “moderate” risk of debt distress, Kyrgyzstan remains vulnerable.
The full study, “Examining the Debt Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a Policy Perspective” can be found at: https://www.cgdev.org/publication/examining-debt-implications-belt-and-road-initiative-policy-perspective.