US seeks transparency on Chinese debt to cash-strapped Pakistan, asks if IMF bailout will be used to repay Beijing

The United States is seeking transparency of the Chinese debt on Pakistan, which has reached out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a multibillion-dollar bailout package, the Trump Administration told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Press Trust of India November 29, 2018 08:31:21 IST
US seeks transparency on Chinese debt to cash-strapped Pakistan, asks if IMF bailout will be used to repay Beijing

Washington: The United States is seeking transparency of the Chinese debt on Pakistan, which has reached out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a multibillion-dollar bailout package, the Trump Administration told lawmakers on Wednesday.

"The IMF team just came back from Pakistan. One of the things we're pushing hard for is full transparency of the debt," Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs David Malpass told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

Malpass was responding to a query on Pakistan-specific Chinese debt from Senator Jeff Merkley during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral and International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic Energy and Environmental Policy.

US seeks transparency on Chinese debt to cashstrapped Pakistan asks if IMF bailout will be used to repay Beijing

Representational image. AFP

Senator Merkley, a ranking member of the subcommittee had asked if IMF funds are essentially being used to repay Chinese debt.

"Pakistan is a good example of a country that has a significant amount of Chinese investment. I think the number I have is $62 billion. They owe a lot of money back to China, Chinese banks, and they're seeking an IMF bailout. I think it's a $12 billion bailout. They have asked the US to make sure that we don't block this," the Senator from Oregon said

"Is that IMF money essentially going to help Pakistan repay Chinese banks? Why is that a good economic development strategy?" Merkley asked.

"One of the challenges is they (China) haven't disclosed the terms of — in many cases, they haven't disclosed the terms of that debt. That means the interest rate, the maturity, and when it would have to be repaid," he said.

"We think that the maturity of the Chinese debt, comes after the IMF would have been repaid," Malpass said responding to the question on Pakistan. "So, from the standpoint of IMF money being used to pay Chinese money, I would say a challenge is to find a program that will cause substantial economic reform in Pakistan and that will allow it to be funded, that Pakistan be funded and have an ability to survive in financial terms going forward," Malpass said.

According to the top Treasury official, this problem is not unique to Pakistan. "China is lending in many countries where the terms of the loans are simply not given, and that gives China a lot of leverage within its program and it's something that we're pushing back on very hard in the Paris Club, in the OECD, in the IMF, the World Bank, at the G20 and in the G7," he said.

Responding to a question, Malpass said that in some cases the terms of the Chinese debt are not given to the borrower nor to the international community.

"They're not made public, they're not available to the international committee, but sometimes they're not even available to certain parts inside the government itself. That's an issue because China may make a loan, but not really want the terms of the loan to be disclosed even within the government that it's lending to," he said as lawmakers expressed concerns over Chinese debt trap model.

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