A new state-of-art Commonwealth debt management system will help countries to proactively manage their public debt portfolio, according to Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
Meridian, a new web-based resource, is designed to help countries effectively manage their public debt, and will be launched on Thursday (June 6) at the Commonwealth Public Debt Management Forum. Senior government officials and representatives from international financial organisations will be at the forum in London on June 5 and 6 to share and explore strategies for effective public debt management and debt sustainability.
The Secretary-General described the new software as an essential tool for debt managers and policy makers, adding: “The stark reality, is that almost half of our developing member states are carrying debt-to-GDP burdens of over 60 per cent and nearly a quarter have over 80 per cent.
“Regions such as the Caribbean, where more than three-quarters of countries have a debt-to-GDP burden over of 60 per cent, and almost half of over 80 per cent, are particularly at risk of unsustainable debt. Hurricanes can wipe out the entire GDP of a nation in minutes, and yet governments still have to service debts to pay for the infrastructure which has been destroyed.
“The impact of unsustainable debt on governments’ ability to fund essential services such as health and education and to direct funds to social and economic development is dire and damaging. Commonwealth Meridian, our new debt management software, will be available to all client countries.”
Pamella McLaren, Adviser and Head of the Commonwealth Debt Management Unit, said the launch of the new software is a proud moment for the Commonwealth. She added: “For most low and middle-income countries, public debt is on the rise again with a substantial number of countries at high risk of debt distress.
“This is why our new debt management software is so important and it is a priority to deploy to client countries to strengthen their public debt management. It couples significant advances in technology with rapidly changing products and practices in public debt management to provide a state-of-the-art software solution to countries both within and outside the Commonwealth family.”
The new software builds on the successes of the Commonwealth’s ongoing debt management work. This includes advocacy, policy advice, training and capacity building initiatives and the current Commonwealth Debt Recording and Management System (CS-DRMS) which has been helping over 100 agencies including Ministries of Finance, Treasuries and Central Banks in 60 countries to manage more than USD 2.5 trillion of public debt.
Meridian will now replace CS-DRMS and provides more and upgraded features to better support countries to formulate, implement and monitor their debt strategies. These features include:
Catering for more types of instruments such as Islamic bonds, accounts payables/receivables, insurance and pensions, financial derivatives and special drawing rights. This is in addition to loans, grants and debt securities;
Improved holding management of debt securities;
More payment mechanism options such as ‘SWIFT’ to promote integration with other financial management systems to improve data quality and accuracy;
Integrated management of claims and risk analysis for contingent liability management;
The ability to record details about private sector external debt applications;
Scheduled tasks with notifications possible via email or SMS to foster control, accountability and transparency;
Workflow management to model and support any arrangement/institutional structure for debt management;
Web-based technology organised around a central repository of data from which key stakeholders can access information through the internet. This ensures that real time data is always available even to remote offices.