Nigeria is missing again as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a fourth round of debt relief for 24 low income countries to cushion the effects of COVID-19.
“This debt service relief helps free up scarce financial resources for vital health, social and economic support to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the fund said in a statement released on Friday.
Countries eligible for debt relief include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands and Tajikistan.
The IMF said countries like Lesotho and Kyrgyzstan were included in the debt relief program because they “meet the eligibility and qualification requirements for CCRT debt service relief in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The fund noted in the statement that the now approved tranche of funds was the fourth approved to countries since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, adding that it has spent $124 million bailing out low-income countries.
The relief is financed under the fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which enables the IMF to provide grants to the poorest and most vulnerable countries hit by a natural disaster or public health crisis.
The current round covers payments due through January 10, 2022, though the fund includes a possible extension till April.
Earlier in April, the IMF had approved the third tranche of grants for debt service relief for 28 member countries under the CCRT, with Nigeria missing.
A month after, President Muhammadu Buhari begged European countries and global financial institutions to restructure debt portfolios and provide complete debt relief.