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The IMF’s Top 10 Biggest Debtors

No country owes the Fund more money than Argentina, Egypt and Ukraine

The total global outstanding debt owed to the IMF stood at $149bn on April 2 2024, or 112.9bn special drawing rights (SDRs), as its loan portfolio has expanded following a number of recently agreed bailouts for ailing developing economies, FDi Intelligence reports.

This dollar figure was calculated by using IMF data on the value of a SDR on April 2 2024, which stood at $1.321. The SDR is used as a unit of account by the IMF to assess the value of support it extends to its member countries.

Despite there being a total of 94 countries owing it money, the IMF’s top 10 debtors still account for more than two-thirds (68.8%) of the outstanding balance.

Who owes the IMF money?

Argentina is the biggest debtor to the IMF, with a total outstanding debt of $42.9bn. The country has had a long and troubled relationship with the IMF, with a history of equally spectacular fall-outs and bail-outs.

At the turn of the century, the IMF made $88.3bn available to bail out the country’s ailing economy. Despite discontent and political turmoil, then president Néstor Kirchner repaid the entire debt in 2006. Mauricio Macri, who became president in 2015, newly resorted to the IMF for a $50bn bailout in 2018 — the biggest rescue in the IMF’s history. However, the country soon found itself in dire straits again, and returned to the IMF in 2022 for another $44bn loan.

The macroeconomic plan of Argentina’s current president Javier Milei, who won a landslide election victory in 2023 on a reform agenda, has been praised by the IMF as “far more ambitious” than recent administrations. The IMF’s executive board approved an immediate loan of $4.7bn for Argentina in its latest staff review published on February 1.

“The new administration has begun to take bold actions to restore macroeconomic stability and address many of the long-standing impediments to growth and investment,” read the IMF review.

Egypt is the second-largest debtor by amount, with an outstanding balance of $14.9bn. Its economy deteriorated following the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and falling revenues from the Suez Canal. The government thus sought an IMF deal to unlock $12bn of cash in 2016. The Fund then approved further loans of $2.72bn and $5.2bn to address the impact of Covid-19 in 2020.

In December 2022, the IMF approved a 46-month loan of $3bn for Egypt, which has been under acute pressure after Russia’s war in Ukraine perpetuated existing pressures on its economy. This has been exacerbated by the conflict in Gaza’s negative impact on tourism and ships being rerouted away from the Suez Canal.

Egypt and the IMF reached a staff level agreement on March 29 about economic policies needed for further support, which made $820m immediately available to the country. Further support of up to $8bn is available if Egypt allows the value of its currency to be determined by market forces and makes foreign currency available to businesses and individuals.

Ukraine also features among the IMF’s largest debtors with a total outstanding debt of almost $12bn. The Ukraine government first agreed to a $2.2bn IMF loan in 1998. The IMF then agreed to lend Ukraine a further $15.15bn in 2010, but the deal was frozen in 2011 amid the lack of reform efforts, the IMF said in 2012.

In March 2024, the IMF dispersed $880m to Ukraine as part of a $15.6bn loan approved a year earlier to help the country’s economy respond to Russia’s full-scale invasion. This forms part of a $122bn support package for Ukraine, which was the first time the Fund had extended major conventional financing to a country involved in a full-scale war.

Pakistan is the fourth-largest of the IMF, with a total outstanding debt of $7.72bn. In July 2023, the IMF approved a $3bn loan for the debt-laden country, immediately dispersing about $1.2bn to help with Pakistan’s balance of payments crisis.

Pakistan also has significant outstanding debt from non-Paris club countries like China and Saudi Arabia, which have become more important trade and investment partners. Pakistan’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, said in March 2024 that another IMF bailout was inevitable.

Ecuador is the fifth-largest debtor of the IMF, with a total outstanding debt of $7.69bn. At the end of 2022, Ecuador received about $700m from the IMF, thereby completing a $6.5bn loan program agreed in September 2020. This was the first IMF program completed by Ecuador in more than two decades. IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack said in March 2024 that Ecuadorian authorities had officially requested “a few weeks ago” to begin discussion on a new program with the Fund.

Colombia was the only other Latin American country to feature in the top 10 IMF debtors with outstanding debt of $4.3bn. The country has a long history with the IMF dating back to the 1950s. In March 2024, the IMF said Colombia had very strong economic fundamentals and policies, but it faces risks from heightened geopolitical tensions, tighter global financial conditions and supply chain disruptions.

Four sub-Saharan African economies round out the top 10 debtors: Angola, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana. All four received support to address the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The IMF said in November 2023 that a slowdown in the economy of China, which buys one-fifth of sub-Saharan Africa’s exports including metals and fuel, will weigh on the region’s growth.

IMF packages to disburse funds to beleaguered countries are not always reflected in their entirety in the overall outstanding debt figures. This is because IMF support is dispersed in installments subject to reviews of whether countries implement necessary economic reforms.

High levels of public debt and higher interest rates have undermined the economic recovery of many low and middle-income (LMI) countries from the Covid-19 pandemic. Their payments to service external and publicly guaranteed debt rose by 5% year-on-year to reach $443.5bn in 2022, according to the World Bank.

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