IMF approves fourth round of debt relief for poor countries

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The IMF has approved another round of debt relief to help poor countries weather the Covid-19 pandemic (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

The IMF has approved a fourth round of debt relief for 24 poor nations including new recipients Lesotho and Kyrgyzstan to help them weather the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a statement released Friday.

The relief was provided under the Washington-based crisis lender's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which enables the IMF to provide grants to the poorest and most vulnerable countries hit by a natural disaster or public health crisis.

In its statement, the International Monetary Fund said the relief was the fourth approved since the pandemic began and totaled $124 million.

"This debt service relief helps free up scarce financial resources for vital health, social and economic support to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," the institution said.

The current round covers payments due through January 10 of next year, and the IMF said it may also extend the relief till April 13, the two-year anniversary of the first tranche of aid. If it did so, total relief would amount to $973 million.

Lesotho and Kyrgyzstan were added because they "meet the eligibility and qualification requirements for CCRT debt service relief in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic," the IMF said.

Besides those two, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands and Tajikistan received aid.

However Afghanistan, which had previously received relief, would not be getting aid this round because "there remains a lack of clarity within the international community regarding the recognition of the government in Afghanistan.

"As such, the Fund's engagement with Afghanistan continues to be on pause," the statement said.

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