The Export-Import Bank of China has offered Sri Lanka a two-year moratorium on its debt and said it would support the country’s efforts to secure a $2.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters.
Regional rivals China and India are the biggest bilateral lenders to Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people that is facing its worst economic crisis in seven decades.
India wrote to the IMF earlier this month, saying it would commit to supporting Sri Lanka with financing and debt relief, but the island nation also needs the backing of China in order to reach a final agreement with the global lender.
However, China’s Jan. 19 letter, sent to the finance ministry, may not be enough for Sri Lanka to immediately gain the IMF’s approval for the critical loan, Sri Lankan sources with knowledge of the matter said.
According to the letter, China EximBank said it was going to provide “an extension on the debt service due in 2022 and 2023 as an immediate contingency measure” based on Sri Lanka’s request.
“You will not have to repay the principal and interest due of the bank’s loans during the above-mentioned period,” the letter said, adding China EximBank wanted to expedite the negotiation process with your side regarding medium and long-term debt treatment in this period.
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