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Risk of debt distress can be analogous to standing too close to the edge of a cliff. Forces beyond out control, such as natural disasters, global economic downturns or falls in commodity prices can push countries right over the edge into debt distress. Indeed, the global economic crisis resulting from COVID-19 has pushed some countries closer to the edge and others over the cliff. For example, Lebanon was propelled into debt default for the first time in its history, when it halted a Eurobond payment of $1.2 billion in early March. In mid-April, the United Nations Secretary General called for creditors to grant all developing countries a “debt standstill”.

This brief examines the multifaceted role of parliament in the oversight of public debt and debt management. This brief was commissioned prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, when concerns were already being raised about rising public debt levels in developing countries.

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