Poorly managed sovereign debt – or government debt - prevents countries from tackling poverty, improving healthcare, ensuring education, developing infrastructures and building better lives for their citizens.
In 1985 the Commonwealth Secretariat introduced software to better record and manage countries’ external and domestic debt - the Debt Recording and Management System (CS-DRMS).
The software has evolved to meet the changing nature of financial transactions across the globe, as well as new technologies and meeting users’ evolving needs. It enables countries to better track their debt, review options for restructuring, evaluate sources of borrowings and develop alternative borrowing strategies.
While CS-DRMS is offered for free to Commonwealth member states, non-Commonwealth countries can acquire it through Crown Agents (UK).
In 1990, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation partnered with the Canadian International Development Research Centre to translate the software into French, and deployed it in three francophone African countries: Benin, Cameroon and Mali.
In 2010 the Commonwealth Secretariat Securities Auction System (CS-SAS) was launched to assist auctioning agencies to manage auctioning of government securities.
In 2012 CS-DRMS was expanded to include the Commonwealth Secretariat Public Debt Analytical Tool (Horizon), which enables countries to look at their future borrowings through the analysis of potential scenarios and outcomes in regards to their debt, to inform their decision making.
CS-DRMS is the bedrock of public debt management operations in 45 Commonwealth and 15 non-Commonwealth countries.
In 2010 Bruno Iboklene, Director of Cameroon’s Debt Operation Department, said: “This tool has become indispensable in implementing the country’s debt strategy and in making the debt control operation permanently visible.”
CS-DRMS, he added, has assisted in determining Cameroon’s financing needs and its future payment obligations, while at the same time contributing to the emergence of the country’s national and sub-regional capital markets.
CS-DRMS has been cited as a key component in helping countries such as Afghanistan and post-conflict Liberia receive debt relief and in improving debt management in emerging countries.
Papua New Guinea - a Commonwealth small state - has been using CS-DRMS since 1987 to record and manage its debt.
In 2010 Gibson Gotaha of the country’s Department of Treasury, which is responsible for managing the country’s public debt, said that the introduction of the software has provided an accurate electronic record for monitoring the debt service payments of the multi-island state.
He added: “We are able to track and monitor debt service payments on time to avoid penalty fees and it also assists in the formulation of a medium term debt strategy and economic policy formulation.”