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Government Debt
and Risk Management Program


Washington, DC


Download the GDRM Program brochure

The Government Debt and Risk Management Program

The Government Debt and Risk Management Program provides assistance to middle-income countries to improve macroeconomic and fiscal management by reducing vulnerability to financial and other shocks.

Focus on Middle Income Countries

Middle-income countries wish to continue improving the quality of public debt management and are increasingly seeking advice on managing risks to which their budgets and balance sheets are vulnerable.
The composition of public debt has been a factor in many economic and financial crises, as excessive exposure to changes in exchange rates and interest rates can result in a large negative impact on public finances. During the 2008-2009 crisis, however, middle-income countries generally performed well. This was a credit to the sound macroeconomic policies and prudent public debt management focused on reducing risks and supporting domestic market development that these countries pursued earlier in the decade. In more recent years, middle-income countries had to weather the volatility from capital flows as investors’ appetite fluctuated between high yield pursuit and flight to quality, testing the resilience of middle-income countries’ debt management practices.

Effective public debt management is a cornerstone of financial stability and sustainable fiscal policy.
Effective public debt management requires reviewing the governance framework, improving the analysis underpinning debt management strategies, increasing efficiency, reducing operational risk, and accessing a broader range of financial instruments and markets to reduce cost and improve risk management. Market-based mitigation measures may be used to alleviate some fiscal vulnerabilities, such as exposure to changes in commodity prices and the financial impact of natural disasters. Measuring and managing contingent liabilities from credit guarantees and public-private partnerships (PPPs) also helps to mitigate a significant source of risk.

Advisory Services

The GDRM Program provides practitioner-to-practitioner support for middle-income countries that is tailored to national priorities and reflects their unique constraints and opportunities.

Advisory services are organized around five focus areas to help governments develop and implement sound debt and risk management strategies.

The GDRM Program customizes every advisory engagement to meet the needs of the individual country.

We support the reform process through the three main stages:
(1) Needs assessments/diagnostic
(2) Design of reform plan
(3) Implementation



The World Bank Treasury provides strategic oversight for each country project, leads advisory components, contracts partners, coordinates with relevant programs, such as the Debt Management Facility (DMF) and Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening Initiative (FIRST), undertakes quality assurance, and acts as a sounding board. Countries are expected to co-finance 10 to 15 percent of the cost to help ensure a high-level of commitment and ownership.

Country projects are led by debt management professionals at the World Bank Treasury in close partnership with countries and donors.

Key Lessons Learned
  • Capacity building in government debt and risk management is a rigorous and comprehensive long-term endeavor. Developing sound practice takes time and commitment and involves various stakeholders. The process is best driven by combining international experience with local insight to ensure best-fit outcomes.
  • Countries highly value timely technical support to address their immediate needs. Some countries require a just-in-time review of the policy for extending central government guarantees. A fast proposal can be made with access to peer experience, together with an analytical grounding in the local reality.
  • It is critical to complement upstream activities consisting of undertaking assessments and providing recommendations with downstream activities which support the actual implementation of those recommendations. Countries need a sounding board while revising their debt management legislation and internal organizations, and close collaboration with international experts when developing analytical models to assist the preparation of strategies.
  • The Program acts as a convening mechanism for local and international expertise. Workshops on key topics - such as the two workshops on cost/risk modeling and contingent liabilities organized in Istanbul, and web-based learning are providing much-valued means of facilitating peer-to-peer-dialogue and access to international best practice.
  • Protecting the government budget and balance sheet against a broader range of risks is emerging as a priority. As major risks arising from the government debt portfolio are contained, the focus is shifting in some countries from direct debt to contingent liabilities, such as the credit risk arising from the granting of guarantees.
  • Assistance targeted at specific issues has worked well. For example in one country, the program provided a senior debt manager from a leading debt office who helped the country construct a government balance sheet, focusing on financial assets and liabilities of the central government, the central bank, and state-owned enterprises, allowing the government to analyze net foreign currency exposure.

The Swiss-World Bank Partnership

Switzerland is a valued, active partner of the World Bank Group (WBG). Through its contributions to select funds, Switzerland deepens its partnership with the World Bank Group and reinforces its status as a key
partner in the effort to end poverty and boost shared prosperity.

The Government Debt and Risk Management Program (GDRM), a trust fund under the World Bank Treasury, initially funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), was established in 2011 to provide support to Middle Income Countries (MICs) on public debt and risk management. The GDRM administers the funding provided by the Government of Switzerland and delivers the work program as mutually agreed and in accordance with the World Bank’s standard operational and administrative policies.

With the support of the World Bank-SECO GDRM Program country partners are sharing experiences and learning from international best practice to reduce their vulnerability to financial shocks through strengthened debt and risk management capacity and institutions and deeper domestic debt markets.

Watch the interview with Rosmarie Schlup, Head of the Macroeconomic Support Division >>

Video interview An Interview with Rosmarie Schlup, Head of the Macroeconomic Support Division at SECO

President Kim signs the replenishment agreement of the Government Debt and Risk Management Trust Fund with Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) – August 23, 2017

Upside Potential

MICs, which are home to nearly 73% of the world’s poor, continue to seek advice and assistance to help build capacity for improving public debt and risk management.

Currently 11 countries are working with the GDRM program to strengthen debt and risk management operations within a debt management office; improve governance arrangements; build capacity to diversify market access and the investor base to support funding needs; deal with contingent liabilities; and accelerate the pace of building debt portfolios aligned with cost and risk tolerance objectives.

There is scope to expand technical assistance to other countries, as well as more downstream implementation work, with the support of other donors.

Current funding comes from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs-SECO and covers 10% of 104* countries designated as MICs by the World Bank. Given the absorptive capacity and skill mix of MICs, the likelihood of tangible progress is high. What's more, given the size of public debt portfolios in MICs relative to their GDPs, even marginal improvements in debt management can translate into considerable budget gains and risk reduction over the long-term.

The GDRM program is well positioned in providing high quality technical assistance with a focus on tangible results, accountability and ownership.

The World Bank Treasury has taken the lessons learned from supporting MICs in these challenging times both in terms of just-in-time support and in a programmatic fashion to offer convenient and effective methods for delivering technical assistance such as providing on-site international and local consultants, off-site support and peer-to-peer learning events using remote technology and webinars, and regular missions. The team also leverages the convening power of the World Bank Group to bring in in-house and external experts as needed as well as coordinating with partners such as the IMF.

*World Bank classification, countries with income level between $1,046 and $12,735.

Participating Countries

Azerbaijan, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Macedonia, South Africa, Serbia, Peru, Tunisia, and Vietnam


The Government Debt and Risk Management Program provides customized advisory services to middle-income countries to improve macroeconomic and fiscal management by reducing vulnerability to financial and other shocks.


Focus on Middle Income Countries

The GDRM Program focuses on middle-income countries (MIC)s, which are home to nearly 73% of the world’s poor. As countries move from low-income country (LIC) status to middle-income country status, their type of funding sources change. Citizens demand more investments in infra-structure, social programs and other projects, which all require government financing.

Another changing need is the increased vulnerability to financial shocks. Therefore there is increased need to have a comprehensive risk management strategy for the debt portfolio and develop the domestic market.

At the same time availability of concessional funds becomes more limited as getting purely concessional grants or loans from the multilateral development banks such as the World Bank or the African Development Bank becomes less likely. Debt managers of MICs have to rely more on the markets, issuing bonds on the domestic market or external market at market rates.

As the borrowing options increase in complexity and choice, debt managers have to be more sophisticated and rely on sound financial and legal frameworks.

Building organizational capacity, and bringing governance, policy coordination, and debt and risk management strategies up to international sound practice world standards becomes crucial, as MICs try to fill the funding gap in the best way and in a manner that is consistent with fiscal and financial sustainability.

There is a need for middle-income countries to improve the quality of public debt management and seek advice on managing other risks to which their budgets and balance sheets are vulnerable.


Tailor-made Approach

Each engagement is tailored to a country’s priorities and reflects its unique challenges and opportunities. A customized implementation plan is prepared with the country during the design stage of the project. This includes specification of: (i) objectives and desired outcomes of the project, (ii) a schedule of outcomes, activities, timeframes and resources, and (iii) key performance indicators and means of verification.

The program prioritizes peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. In the five years since the program was launched, it has provided a powerful and convenient forum to convene and connect countries around emerging themes such as cost and risk modelling and contingent liabilities.

Improving public debt and risk management in order to reduce vulnerability to shocks
takes time
. The Program is designed with a medium-term approach in mind: two to four year period, instead of one-off mission.

The program has a strong focus on outcomes. Throughout the engagement an action plan is formulated that will generate the desired outcomes: activities, interventions and products such as focused technical assistance, training and ongoing policy dialogue.

The result is better management of government debt and risk portfolio, key to financial vulnerability reduction leading to sustainable growth.

Program Highlights



Colombia, Indonesia, Serbia, and South Africa wanted to use tools to regularly prepare and review debt management strategies. These countries are using analytical tools to regularly analyze the cost and risk trade-offs of alternative strategies under a range of macroeconomic and market scenarios.
Vietnam wanted to improve its debt management legal framework to support a more active and market-based borrowing. Vietnam revised its public debt management law and will be soon sending it for the National Assembly's approval. The review process included consensus-building workshops with all stakeholders, guided by international and local experts.
Serbia wants to improve the functioning of the primary government securities market. The debt management office developed an annual borrowing plan consistent with the latest debt management strategy to increase transparency and reduce uncertainty for investors.
Peru wanted to assess exposure to contingent liabilities from government guarantees for public-private partnership infrastructure investments (PPPs). Peru improved valuation tools to better assess and account for contingent liabilities from PPPs.
Serbia wanted to restructure its debt management office to strengthen its enabling environment. Serbia reorganized the Public Debt Administration in line with sound practice.
South Africa wanted to improve transparency and price discovery for secondary market trading of government securities. South Africa will be implementing an electronic trading platform for secondary market trading that will improve the functioning of the secondary market trading overall. The director for credit risk in South Africa helps Ghana implement credit risk assessment methods.
Vietnam wanted to expand its capacity to borrow in the international markets. Vietnam launched a successful and modern (switch tender offer) international market operation in 2014. Vietnam had just-in-time support of debt management experts of lead emerging markets and a workshop on the topic supported the authorities in increasing the team's capacity.
Indonesia wanted to better manage risks from government loan guarantees to state-owned enterprises. Indonesia introduced credit rating methodology to assess credit risk and improve risk monitoring and reporting.
Countries want to learn from international sound practice and share experiences. Workshops provided a platform to share the experience of countries and knowledge of experts. Specific highlights include workshops on: (i) risk-modeling with Colombia, Denmark, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey, and (ii) contingent liabilities with Colombia, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey.


Measuring Impact in GDRM Program Countries

A hard swap – Supporting Tunisia in better understanding the foreign currency exposure for government debt operations

July 11, 2017

Photo: Tunisian debt management office at work – photo credit Antonio Velandia

After the Arab Spring, Tunisia experienced a depreciation of the Tunisian Dinar and a major drop in foreign currency reserves. Concerned with the foreign currency exposure, Tunisian debt management office partnered with the World Bank Treasury - Government Debt and Risk Management Program. The joint team developed an accurate methodology to measure the fair value of these theoretical swaps, leading to better advice for economic decisions.

Read more in English l French l Arabic >>

Serbia: After the Crises -Making the Economy More Resilient to Financial Shocks

March 29, 2017

Photo: Serbian ministry of finance. Credit: Alamy Stock Photos

While still recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis, Serbia suffered historic floods in 2014 – two big shocks to its economy. To create space in the public budget to whether crises, the Serbian Public Debt Administration partnered with the World Bank Government Debt and Risk Management Program to reduce borrowing costs and exposure to financial risks.

Read more>>

Peru: Sending Markets the Right Signals

February 14, 2017

Photo credit: World Bank

After the global financial crisis of 2008, a key priority for the Peruvian government was to reduce fiscal vulnerability to external shocks. As part of this effort, the World Bank Treasury’s GDRM Program worked with the Peruvian Ministry of Finance and Economy on improving the debt management strategy to provide more clarity and transparency in the domestic issuance of government securities to investors.

Read more in English | Español >>


Indonesia: Basing Infrastructure Investment on More Solid Ground

January 31, 2017

Photo credit: Thinkstock

For Indonesia, with its large and far-flung population, a modern and efficient infrastructure is vital to connecting with markets at home and abroad. The Indonesian ministry of finance partnered with the Government Debt and Risk Management Program to assess and manage the risks of government guarantees for infrastructure projects. A new scorecard system is helping Indonesia finance infrastructure investment while managing government exposure to credit guarantees and making the economy more resilient to financial shocks.

Read more>>


Vietnam: Building a Framework for Mobilizing Development

November 14, 2016

Photo: Construction worker in Vietnam. Credit: Alamy Stock Photos

In the last 30 years, Vietnam has become one of the world’s great development success stories. The country has risen from the ranks of the poorest on the strength of a nearly 7% average growth rate and targeted government policies. As it moves to a market-based public debt management environment with a broad range of borrowing choices, Vietnam has partnered with the World Bank Treasury through the Government Debt and Risk Management Program to improve its Public Debt Law to support investment in infrastructure and social programs.

Read more>>


Serbia: A Best-in-Class Solution for Improving Debt Management

October 12, 2016

Photo: Serbian Public Debt Adminstration team at work. Credit: Cigdem Aslan

When Branko Drcelic was appointed head of the Serbian Public Debt Administration in 2012, he was determined build a best-in-class, market-competitive public debt management operation. While Drcelic knew he could rely on the young talent pool around him, he also knew he needed know-how, in terms of technical expertise and training. Serbia joined the Government Debt and Risk Management Program to receive technical assistance to build institutional capacity for debt management.

Read more>>


South Africa: Designing a Better Financial Shock Absorber to Improve Risk Management of the Debt Portfolio

September 22, 2016

South African children enjoying bumper cars at the Rustenburg State Fair

Strengthening shock absorbing mechanisms, like the thick bumpers on these fairground car rides, will help South Africa’s treasury better manage risk when it comes to debt

Photo: Snap2Art / Alamy Stock Photo

South Africa has made significant progress to improve the financial risk management of its public debt portfolio thanks to a tailor-made model designed to analyze the costs and risk factors. This tool, developed through a partnership between the Government of South Africa and the World Bank Treasury's Government Debt and Risk Management Program, allows the country to be better positioned to absorb fiscal shocks going forward.

Read more>>

News & Events


Albania puts its support behind sustainable public debt management: joins the World Bank Treasury - Government Debt and Risk Management Program.

President Kim signs the replenishment agreement of the Government Debt and Risk Management Trust Fund with Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) – August 23, 2017

Supporting Colombia - for a sound debt management framework
August 10, 2017

IMF Board Discusses Capacity Building in Developing Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy
August 3, 2017

A hard swap – Supporting Tunisia in better understanding the foreign currency exposure for government debt operations
July 11, 2017

In search of answers in Tokyo
June 27, 2017

Supporting Ghana in Transitioning from a Low Income to a Middle Income Country
An Interview with Samuel D. Arkhurst

June 5, 2017

Supporting Middle Income Countries in Building Resilience Against Economic Shocks: the SECO-World Bank Treasury Partnership
May 3, 2017

After the Crises: Making Serbia’s Economy More Resilient to Financial Shocks
Mar 29, 2017

From Pretoria, to London, to the World
Mar 1, 2017

Peru: Sending Markets the Right Signals
Feb 14, 2017

Indonesia: Basing Infrastructure Investment on More Solid Ground
Jan 31, 2017

Trading the Sights of London for Washington, DC - A Debt Management Exchange
Jan 12, 2017

Macedonia Joins Government Debt and Risk Management Program to Strengthen Resilience
to Fiscal Shocks

Dec 9, 2016

Vietnam: Building a Framework for Mobilizing Development
Nov 14, 2016

World Bank Marks Fifth Anniversary of the Government Debt and Risk Management Program with a Day of Celebration
Oct 27, 2016

Assisting Middle Income Countries in Their Quest to Turn ‘Billions to Trillions’
Oct 25, 2016

Serbia: A Best-in-Class Solution for Improving Debt Management
Oct 12, 2016

South Africa Named Best Country for Debt Management/Sovereign Bond Issuance in
Sub-Saharan Africa

Oct 9, 2016

South Africa: Designing a Better Financial Shock Absorber to Improve Risk Management of the Debt Portfolio
Sep 22, 2016


World Bank Treasury Conference & Workshop Program >>


GDRM Day: Stocktaking Seminar for Participating Countries
Oct 18, 2016, Washington, DC

This one-day event is dedicated to taking stock of the achievements of the countries in the Government Debt and Risk Management (GDRM) Program. Debt and risk managers from participating countries will have the opportunity to share experiences on reform implementation and to learn from reform initiatives in other program countries.

Sovereign Debt Management Forum
Sovereign debt management in emerging markets: Is the party over?
Oct 19-20, 2016, Washington, DC

The World Bank Treasury is hosting the eighth Sovereign Debt Management Forum, a two-day event, targeted at primarily from developing and emerging market countries. The main objectives of the Forum are to review recent trends and developments in sovereign debt management and to provide debt managers with the opportunity to share their experiences. The agenda will explore the challenges of the current environment and discuss possible responses from the debt management community. In addition, the Forum will bring into focus a range of technical issues associated with implementing sound practices in public debt management.