WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (Reuters): The International Monetary Fund on Thursday approved a $4.8 billion package to cancel the debts of 20 of the world's poorest countries early next year under a plan launched in June by the Group of Eight major industrialized nations.
The IMF's portion of the highly touted multilateral debt relief initiative will be funded in part by profits from 1999 off-market gold sales, as well as contributions from 43 countries to the IMF's lending facility for poor countries.
The IMF said it had commitments from donors to fill a $285 million financing gap in the package.
Among the countries to benefit from the IMF write-off are Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Uganda, Cambodia, Tajikistan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Honduras, Guyana, Senegal, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Niger and Mali.
"(It) will relieve the budgets of these countries of considerable expenditures which we are hoping will be used to reach the millennium development goals," said Mark Allen, the IMF's director for policy development.
"We will be following up with countries in the course of our normal contacts on how they are actually spending this money," he added.