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Cash for Poor Countries, or Another Round of Subprime Lending?

This is a joint post with Benjamin Leo.

A special new lending facility was announced in July 2009 with the objective of providing up to $17 billion in new loans through 2014 and, to entice cash-strapped borrowers, the lender is waiving interest payments for the first two years. This may sound like dangerous new short-term teaser offers for sub-prime borrowers. But this isn’t coming from Countrywide Financial. It actually is a new IMF facility for low-income countries, including some of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) who are just barely coming out of the last debt crisis.

The stated objectives of the new IMF facility are laudable: to offset the effects of the global economic crisis by boosting international reserves and supporting adjustment policies. And yes, the overall terms are more concessional than past IMF loans. Nonetheless, the net impact on national debt levels may be significant. And it was just four years ago that the IMF committed to cancel roughly $6 billion in bad loans to many of these very same countries.

Birdsall Tells Worried House Subcommittee Why U.S. Support to IMF Makes Sense

In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade last week, CGD president Nancy Birdsall argued that support for the G-20 commitments to increase lending resources at the IMF is a critical part of ensuring U.S. recovery from the economic crisis and global prosperity and security. She was, however, confronted with a host of concerns about whether multilateral lending would go to governments like Iran, Sudan, and Syria, and with one member of Congress’s view that he “is a citizen of the United States, not the world.”

Spain, the G-20, and the Need for Reform of Global Governance Systems

The Spanish press reports that Spain's prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has been officially invited to the G-20 summit in London in April as well as the preparatory meeting in Berlin. Spain was invited by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (El Mundo (Spain)/Factiva). The Spanish government has campaigned vigorously to be included in the G-20, despite the fact the European Union is already represented.