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Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

More countries will soon face serious debt problems and likely defaults this year if swift action is not taken, World Bank president David Malpass said Tuesday, calling for debt restructurings and a focus on inequality and investment in the "post-COVID economy."

Why it matters: Malpass is the latest to issue a stern warning about the state of the global economy, calling on creditors, such as China and the Paris Club group of wealthy nations, to share the burden.

Where it stands: Malpass, a former Treasury Department official under President Reagan and Bear Sterns economist who was nominated by President Trump, called the current levels of debt in many countries “unsustainable" and said a growing number were currently on "red alert" for defaults.

  • "Given the sharp decline in short-term and long-term interest rates, we need to find ways to adjust the debt burden process so that the burden of debt on people in poorer countries can be reduced dramatically."

What we're hearing: In addition to the risk of increased debt defaults and rising poverty in developing economies, the World Bank's goal of increasing median incomes in countries "is not being met under the current environment," Malpass said.

  • This is "in part because the stimulus mechanisms that are out there are working toward concentrating the wealth rather than adding wealth from the bottom up," Malpass told Axios during a Q&A session with reporters.
  • "One thing that I think is important is that we recognize that creative destruction is important, meaning small businesses that fail due to the severity of the recession. But even more important is the creation of new small businesses, innovation."

He continued: "And so, that's going to mean countries actually allowing that process to happen and not simply working through their big structures to give funding to big companies."

One level deeper: "The risk is that it may take years for people at the bottom of the income scale to see a sustained improvement in their circumstances."

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - World

The global line for coronavirus vaccines stretches back to 2023

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

There’s a wild scramble at the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines, with the EU discussing export bans and legal action to ensure its supply speeds up in the coming months.

The flipside: The back of the line likely stretches to 2023 and beyond. Almost no low-income countries have managed to begin distribution in earnest, and total vaccinations in all of continental sub-Saharan Africa currently number in the dozens.

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.

15 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.