Critics believe that Pakistan is facing a severe debt crisis. They fear that it could get caught in a big debt trap laid by foreign governments. They warn that Pakistan will go broke. It will be unable to repay these mounting debts. Are they right? To answer this question, Dr. Ishrat Husain, a former central banker and governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, has analyzed Pakistan's debt as of June 30, 2017. Here are some of his key findings:
|Pakistan Public Debt-to-GDP Trend. Source: Dr. Ishrat Husain|
Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities (TDL) consist of public debt and private debt. Total stock of outstanding debt and liabilities on June 30, 2017 stood at 79% of gross domestic product (GDP). Of this, Gross Public Debt accounted for 85% of the total outstanding or 67.2% of GDP. The remaining 15% is the private debt mostly to borrowers outside the country, for which the government has no fiscal obligation, but the SBP has to provide foreign exchange to service this debt. Within the gross public debt, the government’s share was predominant – almost 92% while the balance was owed by the public enterprises but guaranteed by the government. Borrowing from IMF is also included in gross public debt, although it is a liability of the SBP.
As of June, 2017, Pakistan's total public debt-to-gdp ratio is 67.2%, up from 59% in 2008 and 64% in 2013, according to an analysis by Dr. Ishrat Husain, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. The external debt-to-gdp ratio is 20.7%, down from 28.8% in 2008 and 21.3% in 2013. Pakistan's external debt to foreign exchange earnings ratio has shot up to 161.9% from 123.9% in 2008 and 121.3% in 2013.
|Total Debt Service as Percentage of GDP. Source: Dr. Ishrat Husain|
Debt to GDP Ratio:
Public External Debt is lower in 2017 i.e. 20.7% of GDP while it was 27.1% in 2008 and 21.4% in 2013. About 93 pct of the public external debt falls under the category of Medium and Long term while 7% under the short term. Therefore the risk appetite for further short term borrowing to tide over payment difficulties cannot be ruled out as the short term public external debt to SBP reserves ratio is 5.5%. Concessional loans still form more than half of the outstanding stock and commercial loans account for only 1.6 percent of the total.
|Debt Service Share of Government Revenue. Source: Dr. Ishrat Husain|
Pakistan's current debt servicing requires 5.9% of GDP. It is down from 6% in 2008 and 6.9% in 2013. These percentages are by no means alarming. However, the external debt service component to be repaid in US dollars is of concern because of declining foreign currency earnings.
|Debt as Percent of GDP. Infographic Source: Bloomberg|
External Debt Repayment:
A major setback has been caused by stagnation in foreign exchange earnings due to a $ 4 billion drop in export receipts since 2013 .This has raised the EDL (external debt and liabilities) to FEE (foreign exchange earnings) ratio from 121 to 162 in 2017 . There has been some growth in exports in last few months but the pace is unspectacular to make a dent. The other element which is picking up is Foreign Direct Investment but that also won’t be able to lower this ratio significantly. On the fiscal side, almost 24% of government revenues were pre-empted by payments of interest and foreign loan repayments . The average interest rate is down to 6.3 percent with domestic debt being relatively expensive at 8.2 percent.
|External Debt as Percentage of Foreign Exchange Earnings. Source: Dr. Ishrat Husain|
As of June, 2017, Pakistan's total debt-to-gdp ratio is 67.2%, up from 59% in 2008 and 64% in 2013, according to an analysis by Dr. Ishrat Husain, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. The external debt-to-gdp ratio is 20.7%, down from 28.8% in 2008 and 21.3% in 2013. Pakistan's current debt servicing requires 5.9% of GDP. It is down from 6% in 2008 and 6.9% in 2013. These percentages are by no means alarming. However, the external debt service component to be repaid in US dollars is of concern because of declining foreign currency earnings. Pakistan's external debt to foreign exchange earnings ratio has shot up to 161.9% from 123.9% in 2008 and 121.3% in 2013. Of these, the critics are absolutely right about the last one---the ratio of external debt to foreign exchange earnings. Pakistan has to heed their warnings and urgently address its declining exports and rising current account deficits to avoid the potential external debt trap.
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