Kyrgyz president’s appeal for foreign creditors to agree “debt-for-nature” swaps gets nowhere

Kyrgyz president’s appeal for foreign creditors to agree “debt-for-nature” swaps gets nowhere
Japarov raised his concerns while addressing the UN General Assembly in New York. / UN press release video, screenshot
By bne IntelIiNews October 14, 2023

An appeal by Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov to international partners and financial development institutions to help his impoverished country transition to a green economy by ploughing external debt of around $4.2bn into green initiatives appears to have got nowhere.

According to an October 13 Asia Times opinion piece, there have been no takers for the “debt-for-nature” swaps proposed by Japarov in January.

“Much to Bishkek’s consternation, the global creditor class is refusing to return Sadyr Zhaparov’s [Japarov’s] phone calls,” the publication wrote. 

The media outlet quoted Japarov lamenting, amid the supposed urgency of the need to address the climate crisis, the cold shoulder at the UN General Assembly in New York last month, saying that no developed country has taken him up on his offer to negotiate a swap. “I have already addressed our partners with a request to exchange external debt for environmental projects. Unfortunately, we have received no reaction,” he said.  

In January remarks posted by Japarov on social media, he observed: "It would be good, if the funds envisioned for the repayment of the external debt were directed for support of green initiatives. But we do not say that these projects will be financed solely by donors and partners. We are also ready to make a contribution and carry out these projects.

"Of course, we comply and will comply with all our external debt obligations, we have all possibilities for that. We just raise the initiative on the development of the green economy and a joint contribution to improve the environmental situation in the world."

Japarov added: "The countries and financial institutions, from which Kyrgyzstan borrowed funding, could participate in the construction of hydropower plants in the country. We will hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies at those green economy sites together. We will realise green projects in Kyrgyzstan and will get our external debts written off in exchange.”

Japarov also described the problem of the black blankets of smog caused by the burning of coal that afflict the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek as a significant issue, particularly in the autumn and winter when coal burning exacerbates the problem.

Assessing Kyrgyzstan's untapped hydropower potential, Japarov noted that the country currently used only 10% of its potential hydropower resources and must import electricity in the winter.