The Latest: UN body calls for action on debt amid pandemic

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People sit on a terrace in Paris, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Parisians who have been cooped up for months with take-out food and coffee will be able to savor their steaks tartare in the fresh air and cobbled streets of the City of Light once more -- albeit in smaller numbers. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

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UNITED NATIONS — The president of the U.N. Economic and Social Council is calling for urgent action to help the growing number of countries already facing or at risk of “debt distress” because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Norway’s U.N. Ambassador Mona Juul, head of the 54-nation U.N. body, told a meeting Tuesday on financing for the coronavirus crisis and recovery that the decision by the world’s 20 major economic powers to freeze debt service payments for the world’s poorest countries through the end of the year isn’t enough.

She said the Group of 20’s suspension will free about $11 billion until the end of the year, but it’s estimated that eligible countries have an additional $20 billion in multilateral and commercial debt combined coming due this year.

Juul said that means even if the moratorium is extended to 2021, “many countries will have to make difficult choices between servicing their debt, fighting the pandemic, and investing in recovery.”

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