"Private debt flows to developing countries surged to record levels over the period 2003-07. A few low-income countries have gained access to the international bond market but the bulk of the flows have continued to go to just a few large middle-income countries. Most low-income countries still heavily depend on concessional loans and grants from the official sector to meet their financing needs. The paper provides an overview of low-income countries' access to cross-border bank lending and bond issuance in the international market over the past few decades. It highlights some stylized facts that characterize salient features of low-income countries' experience in external borrowing from the private sector and discusses the various factors that influence governments' and corporations' decisions to seek external financing along with creditors' decisions to provide the financing. The paper concludes by assessing the prospects for low-income countries' access to private debt markets over the medium term. "--World Bank web site.