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When the G20 ministers of finance and central bank governors meet in early June, adoption of the Principles for Debt Transparency recently promulgated by the Institute of International Finance will be on the agenda.
The global narrative on development finance centers on enabling all countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This cascades into a set of questions about how much financing is needed, how it should be mobilized, and how it will be used. While the SDGs motivate action and have a reasonable prospect of being met in middle-income developing countries, achieving the SDGs in low-income countries (LICs), which have further to travel and more binding resource and institutional constraints, will be harder. The challenge will be most acute in Africa, where pockets of absolute poverty are increasingly concentrated and environmental degradation and conflict add to state fragility.
CGD research has become Exhibit A virtually every time the charge of “debt trap diplomacy” has been leveled against China in the media this past year. Yet, our research shows that many of China’s borrowers are managing their debts just fine and seem unlikely to fall into any traps.
The 2018 FOCAC Summit will open tomorrow in Beijing. There is much speculation about the size of the investment package China will unveil at the summit. It appears, however, that we are in a new phase of Chinese financing. A combination of domestic and international pressures will likely alter China’s extensive lending program—African states that have relied on this lifeline must adjust to the new reality.
In a new CGD paper, we assess the likelihood of debt problems in the 68 countries we identify as potential BRI borrowers. The big takeaway: BRI is unlikely to cause a systemic debt problem, yet the initiative will likely run into instances of debt problems among select participating countries—requiring better standards and improved debt practices from China.
During the recent IMF and World Bank meetings, all eyes were on China. As the US administration contemplates scaling back its global economic engagement, China is doing the exact opposite. But there is increasing attention being paid to risks associated with Chinese financing on two fronts.