LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) – The Paris Club of creditor nations is ready to provide financing assurances to Sri Lanka, a key step needed to unlock a $2.9 billion bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The informal group of bilateral lenders is set to “soon” announce its support to the crisis-hit nation on a debt overhaul, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because talks are private.
The Asian island nation, which is grappling with soaring inflation, a recession and currency depreciation, entered into a staff level agreement with the IMF last September.
But it needs financing assurances from key bilateral lenders before the fund’s executive board approves the programme.
Sri Lanka’s public debt stood at 122% of GDP, of which 70% is denominated in foreign currency, according to data in a country presentation to investors in November.
China and India, both non-Paris Club members, are the top bilateral lenders. “Paris Club assurance is not reliant on China,” said the source.
Another source said the informal group is currently reaching out to other non-Paris Club besides China on financing assurances, but did not provide any further details.
India previously committed to help ease the debt burden of neighbour Sri Lanka as part of the IMF programme, and China’s Eximbank offered a two-year moratorium in a letter sent to the island nation in January.
While the IMF has not yet provided any guidance on where the lender stands regarding China’s assurances to Sri Lanka, a U.S. official visiting Colombo said on Wednesday that Beijing has not done enough.
“What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief,” U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told reporters. The U.S. is the largest IMF member.