The average national debt shouldered by each Sri Lankan has risen by 25% to reach Rs. 308,171 (US $ 2,371), from end of last year’s Rs.245, 980 (US $ 1,892), the monthly economic statistics released by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) showed.
Referred to as ‘Debt Per Capita’, in economic terms is calculated as total outstanding government debt divided by the mid-year population of an economy. According to the latest figures by the Department of Census and Statistics, the population in 2012 is 20,277,597.
The total outstanding government debt which stood at Rs. 5,133 billion last December increased by Rs. 1,115.6 billion to reach Rs.6,248.9 billion during the first eight months of this year. The total domestic debt increased by Rs. 449 billion, up 16 percent to reach 3,253 billion and foreign debt by Rs. 666.5 billion, up by 28.6 percent to record Rs. 2,995.8 billion during the period.
According to economists, high debt cost amid slow growth in export earnings (8.3% YoY) against growth in imports (11.2% YoY) in the first nine months could lead the country in to a foreign debt trap situation, as the country might opt for foreign borrowings to service earlier debt, and as a result the foreign debt servicing cost (capital + interest) is also expected to surge substantially.
The Budget 2013 projected a fiscal deficit of 5.8% of GDP proposing to rely heavily on domestic sources (83% of total deficit which amounts to Rs.507.4 billion) to finance the deficit while Rs.143 billion and Rs.445 billion is expected to be incurred as capital repayment and interest respectively.
Nevertheless according to the budget 2012, the government has exceeded the borrowing target for the full year which was Rs. 1,104 billion. This demonstrates the poor fiscal performance where the budget deficit reached to 6.44% of GDP last September whereas the full year target is to achieve 6.2%.
On the banking sector, based on economic indicators released for October 2012 by CBSL’s Statistics Department, the total loans & advances of commercial banks have grown by 26.5 percent YoY in September to reach Rs.2, 205 billion. This is a reduction from the 28.5 percent YoY growth in August.
The banking sector credit grew at a rapid pace in 2011 above 34% and as a result interest rates were raised and 18% credit ceiling was imposed in February 2012 to contain growth and avoid the overheating of the economy. However in a surprised move, CBSL last week cut policy rates by 25 basis points and announced the lifting of the credit ceiling by the year end to probably oil the wheels of economic growth.