Japan has reiterated the urgency of promptly finalizing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sri Lanka and creditor nations to facilitate the debt restructuring process. This call for expeditious action comes after an agreement in principle was reached late last year. Japan, along with France and India, holds a key role in co-chairing the committee of 15 creditor nations. The statement emphasized the importance of transparency and comparability in agreements with creditors outside the Official Creditor Committee (OCC).
- Critical Economic Situation in Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is grappling with its most severe financial crisis since gaining independence in 1948. The country is engaged in restructuring deals with creditors due to factors such as soaring inflation, currency depreciation, and critically low foreign reserves. The economic downturn led Sri Lanka to default on foreign debt in May 2022.
- Creditor Agreement Reached in Principle: In November of the previous year, Sri Lanka and its creditors announced that they had reached an agreement in principle on debt restructuring. This agreement is intended to cover approximately $5.9 billion of outstanding public debt and involves a combination of extending maturity terms and reducing interest rates.
- Role of Japan, France, and India: Japan, France, and India play a crucial role in the creditor committee, co-chairing the group of 15 nations involved in the debt restructuring process. Their emphasis on the early completion of the MoU underscores the significance of swift and coordinated action to address Sri Lanka’s economic challenges.
- China’s Independent Deal: Notably, China, Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor, has independently struck a deal with the island nation. However, China has not formalized its membership in the Official Creditor Committee (OCC).
- Total External Debt and IMF Bailout: Sri Lanka’s total external debt is estimated at $36.4 billion, with $10.81 billion categorized as bilateral debt. The completion of debt restructuring agreements with both bilateral creditors and bondholders is crucial for Sri Lanka to undergo the second review of a $2.9 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a process that needs to be concluded by March.
Japan’s call for the swift signing of the MoU and its emphasis on transparency reflect the urgency of addressing Sri Lanka’s economic crisis through coordinated debt restructuring efforts. The involvement of key creditor nations, including Japan, France, and India, underscores the collaborative approach required to navigate the complex financial challenges facing Sri Lanka. The successful resolution of debt restructuring agreements is pivotal for the country’s economic recovery and its ability to meet obligations tied to the IMF bailout. The situation remains dynamic, with the March deadline adding a sense of urgency to the ongoing negotiations and agreements.