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Speeches & Transcripts May 17, 2021

Speech by Axel van Trotsenburg, Managing Director, Operations at the International Conference to Support the Sudanese Transition

President Macron, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of World Bank Group President David Malpass—an early and vocal champion of debt relief for Sudan, allow me to convey the optimism and sense of urgency with which we look forward to the HIPC Decision Point for Sudan.

Today is indeed a historical moment. We have waited 25 years for it. We launched the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) in 1996, and much progress has been achieved in providing comprehensive debt relief.  However, the biggest case – namely Sudan, always eluded us. Until now.

Only now is the opportunity to come to the HIPC Decision Point in June a reality, provided that arrears to the IMF are cleared – and on time.

The HIPC debt initiative is important for three reasons:  

  • Debt relief will be comprehensive and requires the participation of all creditors.
  • Debt sustainability is the objective – Sudan’s debt levels will be brought to sustainable levels for the first time in decades.
  • Debt relief will be linked to the country’s comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, giving impetus in the fight against poverty.

In the process of arrears clearance from multilaterals, we have had generous support from key G7 countries. The US has supported Sudan with the bridge loan needed to clear arrears with the World Bank; the UK, Sweden and Ireland in the case of AfDB; and France is supporting the arrears clearance for the IMF.

However, we must also look beyond debt relief. Sudan stands at a new beginning and will need strong investments, both from the public and the private sectors. Such investments are desperately needed for jobs, especially for youth.

I commend the Transitional Government for the bold reforms they have implemented, including removal of most fuel subsidies, unification of major exchange rates to align with the market, and increased and innovative social spending.

Now, creating jobs, confronting climate change, and addressing the drivers of fragility are the key priorities to address, together with investments in education and health.

To deal with key macro-economic adjustments, the Government has created the Sudan Family Support Program, a cash transfer program to soften the blow of macroeconomic adjustment for 80 percent of the Sudanese people.

This Program enjoys the support of over US$900 million from the international community, with the Friends of Sudan pledging US$500 million. I would like to thank all donors that have pledged their strong support to the Program, which includes $410 million from the World Bank in the form of two IDA pre-arrears clearance grants.

Beyond debt relief, the international community should sustain its support to Sudan by providing fresh financing. Sudan needs this additional financing.

The World Bank has provided Sudan with another US$200 million in budget support, and more investments are needed, into the future. The World Bank will be providing more in the years to come.

In addition, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank is preparing a $100 million operation to help the country procure and deploy vaccines this year, and we will build on this to do even more.  

Tackling Sudan’s enormous debt is central to giving the country a fighting chance to build a more inclusive, prosperous, and stable future after three decades of deep social and economic challenges. It will give Sudan the chance it needs to succeed.

Thank you.