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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

Dave Lawler, author of World
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.

Updated 22 mins ago - World

Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Photo: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

The latest: Kyaw Moe Tun told Reuters later on Saturday, "I decided to fight back as long as I can."

1 hour ago - Axios on HBO

Preview: "Axios on HBO" interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond

On the next episode of "Axios on HBO," Axios co-founder Mike Allen interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.

  • Catch the full interview and much more on Sunday, February 28 at 6 pm. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.