A report from WTW’s political risk index focuses on an escalating debt crisis in emerging markets.

High government expenditures during the pandemic, coupled with global inflation and increased interest rates in 2023, have contributed to an escalating debt crisis in emerging markets, according to WTW.

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The broker has released its latest Political Risk Index report, focused on political challenges for debt-laden emerging market economies.

The report details how political challenges may make it increasingly difficult for multilateral institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, to play their traditional crisis management roles, which could heighten the political and economic risks associated with debt crises.

Other findings included:

  • Cuts in government spending are likely to trigger protests linked to austerity, which are already on the rise particularly in low-income countries
  • Countries with a high ratio of public interest payments to public revenue may be most vulnerable to sovereign debt crises in the near to medium term
  • Partly because of intensified geopolitical competition, the politics of sovereign debt restructuring following debt crises have become increasingly complicated with countries more likely to turn to non-traditional bailout options as a result
  • Climate change is likely to become an increasingly important driver of crises of debt sustainability, necessitating reform of the international debt and financial architecture.

“This report indicates that geopolitics is complicating an already difficult situation, and these trends should be carefully monitored from a risk management perspective,” said Evan Freely, global head of financial solutions, WTW.

“A conveyor belt of economic shocks has hit the world’s most vulnerable countries hard. Emerging market governments may look for less transparent short-term financing, accepting higher interest rates in return for fewer conditions, however this increases both humanitarian and business risks,” he added.

This edition of the WTW Political Risk Index features research conducted by the geopolitical consultants at Oxford Analytica and the credit insurance group Credendo, as well as WTW’s trade credit and political risk teams.

The complete report can be downloaded here.