Challenges Confronting Debt Relief and IMF Lending to Poor Countries
GAO-01-745T, May 15, 2001
The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the International Monetary Fund's concessional (below-market terms) lending facility--the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility--are two multilateral programs intended to help spur economic growth and reduce poverty in low-income countries, most notably countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The HIPC Initiative represents a step forward in the international community's efforts to relieve poor countries of their heavy debt burdens. It does so by seeking to include all creditors and by providing significant debt relief to recipient countries. Unless strong, sustained economic growth is achieved, however the initiative will not likely provide recipient countries with a lasting exit from their debt problems. Furthermore, as long as the initiative links debt relief to poverty reduction strategies, the tension between quick debt relief and comprehensive country-owned strategies is likely to persist. These issues should not be seen, however, as a reason to abandon efforts to provide debt relief to eligible countries. Heavily indebted poor countries continue to carry unsustainable debt burdens that are unlikely to be lessened without debt relief, but participants and observers need to be more realistic about what the initiative may ultimately achieve. This testimony summarizes two GAO reports--NSIAD-00-161 and GAO-01-581.