Ahead of G20, U.N. chief warns 'developing world on precipice of financial ruin'


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Friday that "the developing world is on the precipice of financial ruin and escalating poverty, hunger and untold suffering" as the world struggles to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

His message came ahead of a meeting of the leaders of the Group of 20 rich nations and big emerging powers this weekend.

"We cannot let the COVID pandemic lead to a debt pandemic," Guterres told reporters.

He has been pushing the G20 to further extend and expand debt service suspension to help developing and middle-income economies recover from the pandemic and for the allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and a voluntary reallocation of existing Special Drawing Rights.

In excerpts of a draft G20 communique on Friday, leaders note that the coronavirus crisis had hit the most vulnerable in society the hardest, and said some countries may need debt relief beyond a temporary freeze in official debt payments that ends in June 2021.

"I am pushing for a further extension through the end of 2021 and, critically, to expand the scope of these initiatives to all developing and middle-income countries in need," Guterres said.

A final statement will be released by leaders from the United States, China and other Group of 20 nations after they meet by video conference on Saturday.

"We face epic policy tests. But ultimately, there is a moral test. The trillions of dollars needed for COVID recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations. Every last penny," Guterres said.

"We cannot use those resources to lock in policies that burden them with a mountain of debt on a broken and dangerous planet," he said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Franklin Paul and Nick Zieminski)

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