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Tanzania says it has begun negotiations over debt relief to shore up economy

By Nuzulack Dausen and Omar Mohammed

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania has begun negotiations with creditors over a G-20 nations initiative over debt relief, the finance minister said on Thursday, part of efforts to mitigate against negative economic effects sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.

The initiative is geared towards delaying debt repayments beginning in May to December 2020, freeing up cash for governments to use for measures to ease the economic impact of COVID-19.

“The 20 richest nations in the world (G-20) have urged bilateral official creditors to provide debt relief to the world’s poorest nations including Tanzania,” Philip Mpango said in parliament.

“The government has began negotiations with creditors to benefit from this initiative.”

The announcement comes after the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said it had approved debt relief to Tanzania worth $14.3 million over the next four months, and potentially up to $25.7 million over the next 23 months.

“IMF debt service relief will help free up resources for public sector health needs and other emergency spending, as well as mitigate the balance of payments shock resulting from the pandemic,” it said.

Neighbouring Kenya has said it will not seek debt relief under the G-20 plan because the terms are too restrictive and it might affect Kenya’s credit rating.

Earlier on Thursday, Mpango said that Tanzania expects its economy to grow by 5.5% in 2020 compared with a previous estimate of 4%, after the government took steps to mitigate the economic impact of coronavirus, a much rosier outlook than the World Bank’s projection of 2.5%.

“This is due to rains ruining transport infrastructure in the country and the impact of COVID-19 which hit a lot of countries that are our trade partners,” he said.

In what is the last budget for this parliament before the general election in October, Tanzania plans to spend 34.88 trillion Tanzanian shillings ($15.09 billion) for the fiscal year 2020/21, up from 33.11 trillion shillings the previous year, Mpango said.

The finance minister told parliament that total public debt to GDP ratio stood at 27.1% while external public debt to GDP was at 16.3%.

Tanzania plans to borrow a total of 7.94 trillion shillings from domestic and international markets for the next fiscal year, said Mpango.

($1 = 2,311.0000 Tanzanian shillings)

(Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen in Dar es Salaam and Omar Mohammed in Nairobi; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis)


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