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Results Briefs August 27, 2019

Promoting Debt Transparency—Because the SDGs Depend on It

Students listen to their teacher in a renovated classroom

Many areas of Georgia are in need of new or renovated schools - like the one pictured here - to replace ones built in the 1950s or earlier that have fallen into disrepair. Functional schools are important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Givi Pirtskhalava / World Bank

Rising public debt in low- and middle-income countries poses a challenge to the global effort to end poverty and boost shared prosperity by 2030. The World Bank Group is scaling up its efforts to promote reforms in support of debt transparency and sustainability through its core analytical products, operational engagements, and technical assistance.


Public debt in developing countries has been increasing. The share of International Development Association (IDA) countries at high risk of external debt distress has doubled since 2013. The median interest payment among low-income countries (LICs) rose 128 percent between 2013 and 2017 while government revenues grew just 31 percent. This rise in debt-servicing costs has left many governments with less to spend on critical public services.

These developments pose a challenge to the global effort to end extreme poverty and achieve other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. To meet those goals, countries will need to invest at least 4.5 percent of national GDP each year on infrastructure alone. Governments in developing countries will need to find ways to finance these investments without letting debt grow to unmanageable levels.

Debt transparency is critical in this regard. Policymakers in borrowing countries need reliable debt information to make informed borrowing decisions. Creditors, donors, analysts, and rating agencies need it to assess sovereign creditworthiness, and to appropriately price debt instruments. Citizens need it to hold their governments accountable.


The World Bank Group takes a comprehensive approach to enhancing debt transparency—through its own engagement with more than 100 low- and middle-income countries and in close collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The World Bank has one the highest rankings of the Aid Transparency Index. It proactively seeks to enhance debt transparency through technical assistance and operational engagements, such as Development Policy Finance Operations. The implementation of the revised Bank-Fund Debt Sustainability Framework for low-income countries led to improved debt coverage in debt sustainability analyses (DSAs), scaled up  training on DSAs for government authorities, and publication of a new interactive guide.

In 2018, the World Bank has launched—together with the IMF—a comprehensive approach to address debt vulnerabilities in low-income developing countries. Debt transparency is a key pillar of this approach. It also seeks to promote debt transparency in the context of the proposed Sustainable Development Finance Policy under IDA19 and through its engagement in international fora and outreach to other creditors.


In fiscal year 2019, the World Bank supported several important debt-transparency reforms through advisory services or operational engagements:

  • In Egypt, an International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) fiscal Development Policy Loan (DPL) includes a tranche-release condition that requires publication of an expanded medium-term debt management strategy (MTDS). The strategy includes policies regarding the issuance and size of guarantees for significant state-owned enterprises (SOEs), particularly utility SOEs.

  • In Angola, technical assistance from the World Bank and the IMF resulted in the country’s first published MTDS—a document that was published on the Ministry of Finance’s website. The Bank also advised government authorities on how to improve other aspects of debt reporting and management.

  • In Georgia, with technical assistance from World Bank, the Ministry of Finance approved and published a MTDS for 2019-2021.

  • In Kosovo, the Ministry of Finance produces and publishes, on an annual basis, a medium-term debt management strategy as well as annual and quarterly debt bulletins. IBRD technical assistance helped the ministry to improve the quality of these products and encouraged the dissemination of public debt data. Since 2015, the ministry has also adopted the practice of conducting and disclosing annual DSAs. Finally, the country uses just-in-time data to make sure that all new loans, on-lending, disbursements and domestic debt is recorded within one week.

  • In addition, the Bank made several important contributions to global knowledge and best practices on debt transparency. Two joint notes, prepared in collaboration with the IMF, were delivered to the G-20 in 2018. The first identified ways the international financial community can help low- and lower-middle-income countries improve the recording, monitoring, and reporting of debt. The second evaluated how the World Bank Group and the IMF can strengthen public debt transparency by disseminating debt data, publishing public debt analysis, enhancing creditor outreach, and promoting sustainable borrowing and lending practices.

IDA Results

  • In Ethiopia, a current World Bank Development Policy Finance Loan (DPL) enhanced debt transparency through the publication of expanded annual debt reports and quarterly debt reports, from summer 2019 onwards. The expanded reports include enhanced reporting on debt (including external debt of state-owned enterprises, guarantees, and called guarantees), additional details on debt holders, and improved analytical components.

  • Cameroon and Senegal increased their debt coverage in a recent Debt Sustainability Analysis prepared under the joint Bank-Fund Debt Sustainability Framework.

  • In fiscal year 2019, the Bank helped the Ministry of Finance of Togo design the country’s first public debt portal, consolidating in one website all of Togo’s debt-related information—including debt statistics, debt-related documents and legislation, and an issuance calendar. The portal resides on the website of the Ministry of Finance.

"It doesn’t help any country to hide debt. You might be able to hide the debt, but you can’t hide the consequences. So it’s better to have a system that shows the real situation and helps monitor trends so that you can take the right decision on borrowing at the right time"
Uzziel Ndagijimana
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda

Stella Nteziryayo: The Debt Management Facility and Rwanda


The World Bank Group collaborates with a variety of partners that are central to global efforts to improve debt transparency. Working closely with the IMF, it is implementing a comprehensive approach to reduce debt risks—known as the Multipronged Approach for Addressing Emerging Debt Vulnerabilities. The IMF is also a partner in the revised Debt Sustainability Framework (DSF) for low-income countries. In addition, the Bank has been a leading contributor to the G-20’s efforts to promote sustainable financing—among other things, by developing proposals for the G-20 on how to improve the recording, monitoring, and reporting of debt and debt transparency.

Moving Forward

Over the next 18 months, the World Bank Group intends to step up its efforts in several areas related to reducing debt-related risks: 1) raising awareness of international standards on public debt definitions and reporting requirements; 2) integrating debt transparency considerations systematically into World Bank country operations, strategies, and analytics; 3) strengthening the debt management capacity of client countries; and 4) strengthening policies in support of sustainable lending to IDA countries.


Uzziel Ndagijimana, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda, said:

“Debt transparency is very complex because there are so many players that can contribute to the solution. But some low-income countries need to develop the capacity to collect, process and manage data related to debt. The IMF and World Bank can help in this regard. But really debt transparency is the primary responsibility of countries, with the help of international institutions.”

“It doesn’t help any country to hide debt. You might be able to hide the debt, but you can’t hide the consequences. So it’s better to have a system that shows the real situation and helps monitor trends so that you can take the right decision on borrowing at the right time.”

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