In a world where crises are increasing and overlapping, it is important for governments to be resilient and prepared for all occurrences. This is even more critical for finance ministries, who will need to mobilise funds quickly to support their countries through difficult times.
To assist in building resilience in public debt management operations, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Debt Management Unit recently delivered a regional workshop on business continuity planning for debt managers in Kigali, Rwanda. Over 20 delegates from 12 countries gathered for a five-day workshop to exchange practical information and share best practices.
The workshop was designed to enhance the capacity of debt managers from various African nations to effectively develop business continuity and disaster recovery plans that economise the resources used. The training forms part of a suite of support offered by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Debt Management Unit to our member countries.
Commenting on the event, Delia Cox, Adviser in the Debt Management Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat, said:
“One of our key priorities is to execute activities which cultivate a strong operational resilience culture in our public debt management offices.
"Given the importance of the size and impact of public debt on a country’s macroeconomic outcomes, it is critical that debt management officials put in place business continuity and disaster recovery plans as part of a broader operational resilience framework. This is to ensure that debt management operations continue and remain resilient in the face of disasters- natural or otherwise- and other business disruptions.”
Towards operational resilience in debt management
During her keynote remarks, Stella Rusine Nteziryayo, Chief Economist at the Ministry of Finance in Rwanda, commented:
“Through past crises, we've learned that it's not about ticking boxes but creating a real impact on how debt managers operate daily. Let's apply these lessons to strengthen resilience, ensuring our practices go beyond compliance and directly shape our ability to navigate challenges effectively.
"I am confident that this workshop is a commitment to changing the narrative. We hope that the workshop will help develop the capabilities and provide assistance to ensure that there is a pool of competent debt managers who can not only withstand challenges but also emerge stronger.”
Key takeaways included:
- Public debt management functions remain resilient to external disruptions, ranging from information system failures to natural disasters. It was noted that while the focus has been on managing financial risk, operational risk can give rise to significant costs if not also prioritised.
- Streamlining and documenting key debt management processes is necessary for debt management offices to ensure business continuity and efficient disaster recovery.
- There is a need for additional technical assistance and capacity building in this area, as the implications of not planning for business continuity can be significant. The allocation of funding, as well as greater coordination and cooperation among providers of technical assistance, is critical to building greater operational resilience in debt management offices.
Mitigating and preparing for risks
Given the location of Commonwealth member states in vulnerable geographical regions, public debt management offices face many threats to business continuity. For instance, climate and climate-related events continue to impact every region of the Commonwealth.
This can translate into increased costs and risks. It may also hamper a country’s ability to raise financing for implementing several aspects of a country’s sustainable development agenda, such as health, education and youth, as well as climate adaptation and mitigation.
Public debt transparency can also be compromised if reports are not produced accurately and on time, resulting in significant reputational and political risks. As such, many participants reported that the workshop came at a critical time when the role of the debt manager continues to evolve.
- Charmaine Wright Head of Media Relations • Media and Public Affairs, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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