Dar’s legacy: a heavily-indebted Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD, SEPT 22 (DNA) – Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities swelled to an alarming level of Rs25.1 trillion by June this year – with a net increase of Rs2.5 trillion in a year, exposing the country to many risks attached with repayment of mounting obligations. While some quarters still insist that Ishaq Dar’s performance as finance minister during the last four years is up to the mark, the ground reality is quite the opposite. The shocking elements were that the country’s total external debt and liabilities increased to roughly $83 billion by end of fiscal year 2016-17 and a sum of $8.2 billion was spent on its servicing.

In terms of the total size of the economy, the country’s debt and liabilities increased to 78.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), which is way above the safe level for a developing country like Pakistan, according to the data released by the State Bank of Pakistan on Thursday.

Every Pakistani now owes Rs120,381 as against roughly Rs91,000 in 2013, which reflects an increase of 32% over more than four years.

By all means, Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities have crossed the dangerous mark, suggesting the country has fallen into a debt trap. The growth in total debt and liabilities was 11% last year – the second consecutive year when the country saw a double-digit growth.

“Things are not bad as we thought, they have actually gone worse,” said Asad Umar, member of the National Assembly from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

As against the Rs22.57 trillion of FY 2015-16, Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities increased to Rs25.1 trillion by June 30 of this year, showing an 11% growth over the previous year, said the SBP.

The total debt includes the obligations of both the government and the private sector, although the private sector debt is minimal as compared to that of the government.

Excluding liabilities, the total debt grew to Rs24 trillion by the end of last fiscal year – a whopping 75.3% of GDP and a net increase of Rs2.43 trillion from the previous financial year.

Out of Rs25.1 trillion, the gross public debt, which is the responsibility of the government directly or indirectly, was Rs21.4 trillion, according to the SBP data. The gross public debt increased by Rs1.732 trillion or 8.8% in the last fiscal year.

In order to conceal the worsening debt picture, the federal government twice revised the definition of public debt. According to the finance ministry’s definition, the public debt was Rs19.64 trillion, but the PTI has already decided to challenge the amended definition in the Supreme Court.