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China's loans aren't debt traps, researchers say, but interest rates are consistently higher than World Bank
Center for Global Development
WASHINGTON – As the COVID-19 economic crisis brings about rising concerns over debt sustainability in developing countries, a new report from the Center for Global Development (CGD) finds that China's loans tend to have shorter grace periods and maturities and higher interest rates than loans from the World Bank.
“With developing countries taking an economic hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a real concern about debt risks in developing countries—many of which were already at risk of debt distress. China is now the largest bilateral lender in the world, so decisions made in Beijing have a huge impact on the economies of developing countries,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at CGD and an author of the report.
“We found that China's loans have consistently contained harder terms than the World Bank, particularly for the poorest countries. Most of the discussions of debt vulnerability in developing countries have focused on the overall amount of borrowing, but the shift in loan terms matters a lot too,” said Brad Parks, the executive director of AidData and an author of the report. “That said, while we have concerns, we don’t find evidence for the ‘debt trap’ narrative. A few percentage points more in interest compared to the World Bank hardly seems usurious.”
With a lack of official Chinese government data on its lending programs, the researchers created a database of 2,453 loans from China and 4,859 loans from the World Bank for comparison, spanning 157 countries and 15 years. Data includes loan-by-loan information on interest rates, maturities, and grace periods, including for projects that fall under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Total Financing (USD)
Average Loan Size (USD)
Average Grant Size (USD)
Total Number of Projects
Volume of Grants (% total financing)
Volume of Loans
Weighted Mean Interest Rate
Weighted Mean Maturity (years)
Weighted Mean Grace Period (years)
“It's clear that developing country governments find value in China’s lending, compared to what they can get on the markets. But it's incredibly important that the Chinese government, which has a stated commitment to debt sustainability, carry out its lending program in a way that doesn’t heighten debt risks in its partners,” Morris said.
“The IMF and the World Bank are calling for lenders to step up and help developing countries with their debt obligations during the crisis. As one of the world’s leading creditors, this is a good opportunity for Beijing to show that it’s sensitive to debt risks.”
The full report and dataset are available at https://www.cgdev.org/publication/chinese-and-world-bank-lending-terms-systematic-comparison
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The rising budget deficits and associated increases in public debt confronting the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) make it difficult for the government to comply with the legislated debt ceiling of 45 percent of GDP within the foreseeable future.
Center for Global Development
WASHINGTON – As governments across the globe begin to use direct transfers to get money to citizens unable to work, a new report from the Center for Global Development (CGD) finds that just 56% of citizens across 99 developing countries have access to a phone, a bank account, and an ID. Those three things, the researchers find, are the building blocks for the successful rollout of digital government transfers, from emergency cash transfers in a pandemic to everyday government programs like pensions and food subsidies.
“Governments around the world are moving full-steam ahead to get money in the hands of their citizens who are out of work due to the coronavirus. But we found that for digital payments from governments to work well, countries need to have the digital basics in place: bank accounts, IDs, and phones. And far too many developing countries are running behind on making sure their citizens have access to those basics,” said Alan Gelb, one of the authors of the study and a senior fellow at CGD.
“There are a lot of advantages to bringing government payments online. It can cut out costly middlemen and time-wasting activities like waiting in line to pick up a ration payment, as well as providing a much stronger defense against corruption, “Gelb said. “And, in a crisis like this, it means you have the digital infrastructure ready to go for something like emergency cash transfers.
“India has been at the forefront, digitizing programs like pensions and subsidies to buy cooking gas for poor families. And what India’s experience illustrates is how you need a trio of digital basics to make payments work: a digital ID to prove a person is who they say they are, a financial account to for them receive the money, and a mobile phone that can be both an information hub and a tool to access that money,” said Anit Mukherjee, a policy fellow at CGD and another author of the study.
The researchers found that while many governments had focused on rolling out national biometric ID programs, like India’s Aadhaar system, financial inclusion is the biggest hurdle for most. About 34% of the population in the 99 countries they examined lacked a financial account, and in the lowest-performing countries, more than two thirds of the population did not have access to a financial account.
“We found that the lack of bank and mobile money accounts is the biggest gap in digital readiness. It’s hard to get money to citizens who don’t have either,” said Mukherjee.
The report found:
There are significant gender gaps in access to phones, IDs, and especially bank accounts. In sub-Saharan African countries, men were at least 9 percentage points more likely to have access to each of the three than women.
More than twenty percent of women in Pakistan don’t have access to even one of a bank account, mobile phone, or ID, four times the rate of men.
Sub-Saharan African countries tend to have relatively high rates of financial inclusion, thanks to widespread use of mobile money in many countries, led by Kenya, which did better than much richer countries on that front.
Financial inclusion remains relatively low in Latin America. While nearly 80% of Latin Americans had access to a mobile phone, barely more than 50% had a bank or mobile money account.
The good news, they found, is that building on one part of the basics helps expands others. Everything else being equal, having an ID and a mobile phone increases the likelihood that a person will have access to a financial account, particularly for groups that are disadvantaged. Also, even as access makes it easier to implement social transfers, transfers can themselves be a powerful force for increasing financial inclusion.
“None of these numbers are set in stone. Governments can and should work to expand their citizens’ access to the digital basics. And they should need to ensure that they do it in ways that don’t reinforce existing inequalities,” Gelb said.
The full report is available at https://www.cgdev.org/publication/citizens-and-states-how-can-digital-id-and-payments-improve-state-capacity.