Public Debt Management and the Role of Parliament, in Times of COVID-19 and Beyond

Accountability and transparency
Online event

Public Debt Management and the Role of Parliament, in Times of COVID-19 and Beyond

14 July 2020
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Online event

WFD has prepared an extensive policy brief on the multifaceted role of parliament in the oversight of public debt and debt management: “Weathering the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond: The Role of Parliament in Public Debt Management”. Drafting of this brief started prior to the COVID-19 outbreak when concerns had already been raised about rising public debt levels in developing countries. The policy brief has been updated as the pandemic unfolded, and more countries ended up in debt distress. The policy brief is aimed at helping parliamentarians and other policy makers gain a better understanding of the substance, relevance and applicability of parliaments’ role in public debt management.

This webinar will discuss the current public debt crisis and the role of parliaments, with the participation of leading experts on the topic, and the author of the new WFD policy brief.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires governments to respond to the health emergency and address the subsequent economic shock. Mitigating the effects of the pandemic requires financial resources at a time when the economic activities and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are declining. As governments roll out economic recovery packages and borrow to compensate for the loss of revenues due to the crisis, the public debt in many countries is increasing sharply. The global economic crisis resulting from COVID-19 has pushed some countries closer to the edge and others over the cliff into debt distress.

In some countries, public debt is eating up government financial means and undermining implementation of the SDGs. If rising debt costs are not addressed (restructured or reduced), new revenues will not give governments the fiscal space they need to strengthen healthcare systems, pursue women’s economic empowerment programs, ensure free public education through secondary school, or adapt infrastructure to mitigate for climate change, for example.

As parliaments have the power to oversee the budgetary measures adopted to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, they also have an urgent duty to scrutinize the increasing public debt. Often, parliaments and MPs have little information at hand on the public debt situation and strategy to tackle that debt. Parliaments should be provided with detailed information on the structure, sources and long-term estimated effects of debts as well as the conditions attached to credits and loans.

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