International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis led to a surge in government debt and financing needs as many countries in the Middle East and Central Asia reacted swiftly to mitigate the pandemic’s impact. Although several of these countries successfully accessed international financial markets, domestic banks covered a significant share of emerging markets’ financing needs, further expanding their already significant exposure to the public sector. By contrast, most low-income countries (LICs) had a small response to the crisis because of financing and policy space constraints. Looking ahead, public gross financing needs in most emerging markets in the Middle East and Central Asia are expected to remain elevated in 2021–22, with downside risks in the event of tighter global financial conditions and/or if fiscal consolidation is delayed due to weaker-than-expected recovery. However, further reliance on domestic financing will reduce banks’ ability to support the private sector’s emergence from the crisis, thus prolonging the recovery. Credible medium-term fiscal and debt management strategies, together with policy actions to develop domestic capital markets and mitigate banks’ overexposure to the sovereign would reduce financing risks, address the elevated debt burdens, and entrench financial stability.