August 17, 2022

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Developing countries are at risk of defaulting on debt

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Classic signs of credit crises, currency collapses, bond spreads of 1,000 basis points and falling foreign exchange reserves point to a record number of developing countries now in trouble. Belarus is on the brink, and at least 10 other countries are in the danger zone, fearing rising borrowing costs, inflation and debt-fueled economic collapse.

The cost increase is staggering. Using a bond spread of 1,000 basis points, analysts estimate $400 billion in debt. Argentina has the largest debt, at $150 billion, while Ecuador and Egypt have debts between $40 and $45 billion.

Crisis experts believe many countries can avoid default, especially if global markets calm down and the IMF steps in to help.

Among the countries at risk is Argentina, as the South American country, which holds a world record for sovereign defaults, is likely to add more debt to its balance sheet.

Argentina’s peso now trades at a nearly 50% discount on the black market, reserves have fallen sharply, and bonds are trading at 20 cents to the dollar, less than half what they were after the country’s debt restructuring in 2020. The government has no significant debt to pay until 2024, but it is increasing.

Ukraine

Investment banks, including Morgan Stanley, have warned that war between Russia and Ukraine could mean Ukraine will be forced to restructure more than $20 billion in debt.

The crisis comes in September when $1.2 billion in bonds are due to be repaid, and aid money and reserves mean Kiev can make the repayments. But with state-owned Naftogaz this week calling for a two-year debt freeze, investors doubt the government will follow through.

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Ethiopia

Addis Ababa plans to be one of the first countries to receive debt relief under the G20 Common Framework Programme. Progress in this area has been hampered by the country’s ongoing civil war, although it continues to pay a concurrent $1 billion international bond.

Pakistan

Pakistan signed a landmark agreement with the International Monetary Fund this week.

The development comes at a time when energy import prices have soared and pushed the country to the brink of a balance of payments crisis.

Foreign exchange reserves fell to $9.8 billion, insufficient to cover five weeks of imports. Pakistan Rupee plunges to record low The new government needs to cut spending quickly because it spends 40 percent of its revenue on debt interest payments.

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