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Debt Restructuring Framework Must Improve to Help Distressed Countries, Pakistan's Ex-Central Banker Says

Buddhika Weerasinghe | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • Global bodies like the IMF need to step up and improve the framework for sovereign debt financing so that emerging market economies, like Sri Lanka, can get out of their debt distress problems faster, says the former central bank governor of Pakistan.
  • Reza Baqir, currently the global head of sovereign advisory services at Alvarez & Marsal, said the South Asian nation is still waiting for the International Monetary Fund for debt relief to help the country from dire economic conditions. 
  • Baqir also highlighted the outlook for emerging markets "has deteriorated very sharply" over the past two years despite some recent improvement in appetite.

Global bodies like the IMF need to step up and improve the framework for sovereign debt financing so that emerging market economies, like Sri Lanka, can get out of their debt distress problems faster.

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That's according to the former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, the country's central bank. 

Reza Baqir, currently the global head of sovereign advisory services at Alvarez and Marsal, pointed out that Sri Lanka is still waiting for the International Monetary Fund debt relief to help restore stability as the country grapples with dire economic conditions.

Sri Lanka "stopped paying its creditors in spring of last year and it's been close to nine months, and we are still waiting for a meeting of the IMF board," noted Baqir. "We need a more proactive response from the international financial community."

Sri Lanka is facing a huge debt burden and runaway inflation which led to severe shortage of essential goods and social unrest last year.

"Sri Lanka's case, I think, illustrates a broader point right now — that the international frameworks of sovereign debt restructuring leave something to be desired," Baqir told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" on Monday.

"When a country gets into debt distress, there needs to be a better financial architecture to get it quickly out of debt distress," he added. 

The IMF preliminarily agreed to extend a 48-month $2.9 billion loan to Sri Lanka in September, to help restore economic stability to the crisis-hit South Asian country.

China and India are among Sri Lanka's biggest bilateral creditors. Earlier this month, India told the IMF that it supports Sri Lanka's debt restructuring plan. In January, China's Export-Import Bank reportedly offered Sri Lanka a two-year moratorium on its debt.

Outlook for emerging markets

Baqir also said the outlook for emerging markets "has deteriorated very sharply" over the past two years despite some recent improvement in appetite. The key reason is the rapid rise in public debt, he added.

"Those that have made progress in tightening monetary policy earlier to bring inflation down, those that have a good track record of macroeconomic policy implementation are going to be rewarded by investors," Baqir said.

"But then many that have high debt and don't have a good track record of macroeconomic management, they are going to continue to face challenges because the world funding rates are still much higher than they were five years ago."

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