When Bill Rhodes says the debt crisis that’s erupted across the world’s emerging markets is the worst he’s ever seen, it must be bad.

Rhodes, 84, knows a thing or two about the topic. The former Citigroup Inc. executive is a veteran of the 1980s Brady Plan that re-set the clock for Latin America’s struggling economies by creating a new debt structure for developing nations that’s largely in place to this day.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Rhodes said in a Thursday interview. “You need to have some sort of coordination between the private and the public sectors.”

Three decades after U.S. Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady stepped in to rescue emerging markets, the global pandemic is again challenging the world for a solution -- and this time, a raft of private bondholders must also be on board. More than 90 nations have already asked the International Monetary Fund for help amid the pandemic.

It’s clear that the task would be daunting. The $160 billion debt renegotiated during the Brady Plan pales next to the $730 billion that the Institute of International Finance says is due in hard-currency debt by emerging-market nations by the end of 2020.

And unlike 1989, when the loans were mostly held by banks and defaults had already happened, now it’s split between hundreds of creditors ranging from New York hedge funds to Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds and Asian pension funds.

Academics and authorities are advocating for steps that would allow developing nations to pause bond payments through at least 2020, if not even longer, until the coronavirus fades and economies stabilize enough to analyze debt sustainability. That’s upsetting some creditors on Wall Street who depend on those funds to keep their portfolios afloat.

Group of 20 leaders and multilateral organizations are already working toward relief for nations to stay current on debt. The IMF and Paris Club asked the Washington-based IIF to coordinate a standstill, and the United Nations is calling for a new global debt body.

Private creditors are exploring ways to join initiatives to waive debt payments from poor countries, the IIF and Paris Club said on Thursday. They will work in the coming weeks on reference terms for voluntary private-sector participation in debt-relief efforts, the two bodies said in a statement.

A solution can’t come soon enough. Dollar-denominated notes from 18 developing nations already trade at spreads of at least 1,000 basis points over U.S. Treasuries, the benchmark for distressed debt, data compiled by Bloomberg show. While the top three outliers -- Venezuela, Argentina and Lebanon -- were grappling with their own problems before the pandemic, others are approaching those levels amid currency sell-offs and record-shattering outflows.

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