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G20 eyes debt moratorium worth up to $14 billion for poor countries: official

BERLIN (Reuters) - Financial leaders of the 20 largest economies (G20) are discussing an immediate debt moratorium worth up to $14 billion to help poor countries free up funds in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic, a senior German official said on Tuesday.

The debt moratorium, suggested by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, will likely be the key part of an action plan that the Group of 20 finance ministers are expected to fine-tune and present on Wednesday, the official said.

“Germany is assuming responsibility not only at home and in Europe, but also in the world - and that’s why we support the debt moratorium proposed by the IMF and World Bank to help the poorest countries in the world,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The plan to immediately suspend debt payments is supported by all G20 creditor countries as well as the members of the Paris Club of public-sector creditors, the official said.

“We’re talking here about a total sum of up to $14 billion which the poorest countries will be allowed to pay back later and therefore can be spend on measures related to COVID-19,” the official said, adding: “This can certainly be called a historic step.”

The question of debt reduction should be discussed later this year when there is more clarity about the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the official said.

The IMF said on Monday it would provide immediate debt relief to 25 member countries under its Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) to allow them to focus more financial resources on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Michelle Martin and Paul Carrel