November 30, 2006 -- Representatives of the World Bank and the Kyrgyz Economics and Finance Ministry launched talks in Bishkek today in a bid to hammer out a debt-relief agreement.
The negotiations are aimed at determining conditions under which Kyrgyzstan might join the World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program (HIPC). They are due to continue until December 15.
The question of possible membership of the HIPC has divided the Kyrgyz political scene.
Many in the Kyrgyz legislature oppose the country's joining HIPC, saying the move could undermine government efforts to reduce poverty and attract foreign investors. Others fear the program would give the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- the HIPC's co-sponsor -- too much control over the Kyrgyz economy.
A few dozen protesters gathered today in front of the Economics and Finance Ministry to voice their opposition to the ongoing talks. A similar number turned out for a demonstration in front of the World Bank's offices in Bishkek on November 29.
Official figures show Kyrgyzstan's external debt stood at nearly $2 billion on May 31.
The government hopes that joining the HIPC program might help write off up to $300 million by the end of 2009.