Transparency of loans to governments

Transparency of debt information is good for everyone. It gives lenders more certainty about the basis upon which they are lending, it gives borrowers lower interest rates, and it allows citizens to subject lending and borrowing by their governments to more scrutiny, including through holding public debt audits into borrowing and lending decisions. 

Such scrutiny is vital to ensure loans to governments are used well so that the Sustainable Development Goals can be met. Transparency is primarily the responsibility of borrowing governments, and lenders should only be willing to give loans to governments that are willing to disclose that the loans exist.

Private companies, governments and multilateral institutions are all significant lenders to governments, and so all need to take action to make lending more transparent. In this briefing we argue that information on loans to governments, or with any form of government guarantee, should be disclosed via a global publicly-accessible registry within 30 days of contract signature, and should include: the value of the loan, fees, charges and interest, the law the debt is owed under, any available information on the use of proceeds and the payment schedule.

To help make this happen, we recommend that: 

  • G20 governments ensure that a publicly accessible registry of loan and debt data is created and housed in a permanent institution, with the required ongoing funding. Civil society, parliaments and media should be consulted on its construction so that the data is open, standardised and structured, and therefore readily usable. Information should be made available in English and the main language of the borrowing country concerned. 
  • All governments and multilateral institutions commit to disclosing the loans they give in this registry, including the information outlined above. 
  • The Institute for International Finance agree principles on disclosing in this registry, including the information outlined above. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative should require resources companies and governments to also disclose resource-backed loans to governments. 
  • All relevant legislatures, especially the UK and New York, introduce a requirement that for a loan to a government, or with any form of government guarantee, to be enforceable, it must have been publicly disclosed on the registry mentioned above, within 30 days of contract signature, and providing the information outlined in the report below.