External debt, bankruptcy and Pakistan

How matters went from bad to worse

 

 

Pakistan is fast turning into a bankrupt country – that is if it has not already done so. If this trend continues then Pakistan will soon lose its economic sovereignty. Moreover, because of financial problems caused by this debt, Pakistan’s institutions will find it hard to function – including the military of Pakistan, which is essential for fighting terrorists and balancing external threats. A bankrupt Pakistan and a bankrupt military will spell nothing short of a disaster for Pakistan.

By analysing Pakistan’s macroeconomic and financial fundamentals it seems as if Pakistan is being pushed into a debt trap by the governments of PPP and PML-N. If drastic measures are not taken towards fixing the Pakistan’s economy, then Pakistan will soon end up in a financial crisis. Below I analyse some of the key economic variables for Pakistan, namely: external debt stock, total reserves as a percentage of external debt, budget deficit, exports and the exchange rate of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s external debt has increased substantially in the last seven years (Figure 1). Between 2007 and 2012, Pakistan’s external debt increased by around $20 billion to $59.6 billion, in inflation adjusted terms. This is about a 50 per cent increase in external debt. Moreover, the worrying trend has been that in recent years the rate at which external debt has been accumulated has increased substantially.

It is evident from external debt stock, total reserves as a percentage of external debt, export growth, currency exchange rate and fiscal deficit that since 1988 the only administration that has improved Pakistan’s finances was that of President Pervez Musharraf. In contrast, various PPP and PML-N governments have taken Pakistan’s finances towards an unsustainable path of external borrowing.

The PML-N government, which came to power in 2013, has made the external debt situation exceptionally worse. By some estimates, the PML-N government has taken on an extra $10 billion in external loans in the last 12 months. Without any resources to pay these loans back, low growth in tax revenue, a depressed economy and a depreciated currency, this external debt is likely to take Pakistan towards a financial crisis.

Figure 1

OZM

Source: World Bank. These figures are in inflation adjust terms, with 2010 as the base year. Data is only available till 2012. Shaded area shows years of President Musharraf’s administration.

Figure 1 shows Pakistan’s external debt stock since 1988. During the governments of PPP and PML-N, external debt increased substantially. External debt increased by around $15.4 billion between 1988 and 1999 and by around $20 billion between 2007 and 2012. These figures show that the governments of PML-N and PPP have followed an unsustainable path of borrowing both in the 1990’s and since 2007. In contrast, external debt declined during President Musharraf’s administration, declining by around $3.4 billion between 1999 and 2006.

Not only has Pakistan’s external debt increased, but at the same time Pakistan’s ability to pay back this debt has decreased significantly. A good indicator of a country’s ability to pay back external debt is total reserves as a percentage of external debt. Between 2006 and 2012, total reserves as a percentage of external debt decreased by 12.5 percentage points (Figure 2). With the recent increase in debt obligations and reduction in foreign reserves, this ratio is likely to have further deteriorated. In comparison, during the administration of President Musharraf, total reserves as a percentage of external debt increased by 28.4 percentage points.

In addition, Pakistan’s export growth has also slowed. Exports are a major instrument for a country to gain access to foreign currency, which can be vital for paying back external debt. Between 2007 and 2012, average annual export growth has been ‑0.6 per cent, as opposed to a staggering 10.2 per cent average annual growth achieved under President Musharraf’s administration.

Figure 2

OZM-1

Figure 3

OZM-2

Source: World Bank. Data is only available till 2012 for total reserves as per cent of external debt and till 2013 for exchange rate. Shaded area shows years of President Musharraf’s administration.

Moreover, Pakistan’s ability to pay back external debt has been further eroded by the devaluation of Pakistan’s Rupee, which depreciated by around 67 per cent between 2007 and 2013 (Figure 3). The Pakistani Rupee has depreciated mostly because of macroeconomic mismanagement, lack of growth in exports and reduction in foreign direct investment. Such a significant devaluation of the Pakistani Rupee means that Pakistan’s ability to pay back external debt from domestic resources and domestic revenue has been considerably reduced. Since 1988, the only period in which the Rupee stabilized was between 2001 and 2007. This was achieved by increasing foreign cash inflow into Pakistan by increasing exports, foreign direct investment and remittances during the administration of President Musharraf.

Figure 4

OZM-3

Source: World Bank. Data is only available till 2012. Cash surplus or deficit is revenue (including grants) minus expense, minus net acquisition of nonfinancial assets.

Pakistan’s budget deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has also deteriorated since 2006, decreasing by 4.06 percentage points. Figure 4 shows the deteriorating budget deficit for Pakistan under the PPP and PML-N governments. This budget deficit is likely to force Pakistan to depend more on both foreign and domestic borrowing, pushing Pakistan further into a potential debt trap.

Furthermore, it seems as if the governments of PPP and PML-N have no incentive to be concerned about paying back the external debt that their respective governments have borrowed. According to the World Bank data, average grace period of new external debt commitments since 2007 is 6.6 years. As the election cycle in Pakistan is five years, less than the average grace period for new debt, the subsequent governments of PPP and PML-N have not had to be concerned about paying back this debt during their respective tenures. Instead this new external debt is only going to be a problem for future governments and Pakistani citizens. This is a clear example of moral hazard. In economics, moral hazard is where an economic agent does not enter into a transaction in good faith, partly because he does not have to face the full cost of his decisions. Since the governments of PPP and PML-N don’t have to worry about paying back the debt they borrowed during their respective tenures, they have borrowed excessively – causing a moral hazard problem.

Pakistan’s external debt has increased substantially in the last seven years (Figure 1). Between 2007 and 2012, Pakistan’s external debt increased by around $20 billion to $59.6 billion, in inflation adjusted terms. This is about a 50 per cent increase in external debt. Moreover, the worrying trend has been that in recent years the rate at which external debt has been accumulated has increased substantially.

It is evident from external debt stock, total reserves as a percentage of external debt, export growth, currency exchange rate and fiscal deficit that since 1988 the only administration that has improved Pakistan’s finances was that of President Pervez Musharraf. In contrast, various PPP and PML-N governments have taken Pakistan’s finances towards an unsustainable path of external borrowing.

In summary, Pakistan’s macroeconomic fundamentals have weakened substantially since 2007. Reductions in Pakistan’s export growth and foreign direct investment have further diminished Pakistan’s ability to generate forex reserves to pay back external debt. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s high budget deficit continues to be a drain on its economy. Given the state of the economy, it seems as if Pakistan is surviving on a borrowed economy.

If Pakistan’s finances are not managed properly, then Pakistan will soon become an economic failed state and dependent on international donors. Such an outcome is likely to cost Pakistan its sovereignty and financial independence!

The writer is pursuing PhD in economics at the Australian National University. He can be reached at [email protected]

The writer is pursuing PhD in Economics at the Australian National University. He can be reached: at [email protected]



7 Comments

  1. KHAN said:

    BLIND LEADING THE BLIND, SELF INTEREST RULES PAKISTAN………..HONESTY IS REAR,,,,,,,,SILENT MAJARTTY IS ALWAYS SILENT UNTIL THEY WAKE UP , CAN NOT EXPECT PROGRESS,,,,,, NOT LOGICAL FOR A NATION………………………….

  2. KHAN said:

    Thank you MR, Omer Majeed for the exposure,,,,,,,,,,,, very good sir….

  3. Ali said:

    Musharaf made many good decisions, they are in favor of Pakistan in long run. Some of them are establishment of National Database registration authority. Computerized ID cards and Passport. Issuance of National ID card for overseas Pakistanis. PHd scholarship for deserving Pakistani students. Musharaf bring many professionals in his cabinet one of them is renowned Pakistani scientists Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman. Thing started getting worst when he decided to help America against War on Terrorism, his stance against the judges was largely criticize.

    • Saleem said:

      Ali sahib, If he would have favoured the Talibans and refused to support the US how things would have gone no one knows. It is a possibility that the US may have attacked Pakistan too. No one actually knows how things would have turned then.
      As far as the stance of Ex CJP Iftikhar Ch is concerned now it feels that Musharraf was right then. Almost all TV channels have shown programs (after his retirement) that both CJP Iftikhar and his son are corrupt as different stories are circulating.

  4. @manzoorsohail said:

    shar zar mush all looters …. we need leadership which is for pakistan and not for self benefits … thanks OM for these facts .all who know facts should educate masses as their education can play positive role too

  5. Mustansar Billah said:

    Probably the article is targeted to undermine the financial condition of the government but actual situation is not so bad rather encouraging, when Musharraf government left every body knows that there was nothing in the kitty. It only enjoyed the benefit of debt rescheduling and PPP and PMLN government are regularly paying the installments. The debt burden rose to $66 Bn during the PPP period but Pakistan did not default. It was brought down to $59 Bn by the present government which now stands a little more than $61 Bn. Musharraf government started from $39 Bn and at the end of the regime it was $46 Bn an increase of 17.9%. PPP escalated the debt to $62 Bn when handed over the government that was 34.7%, Fort the present government the external debt till May 19 was still under $62 Bn. Mr Omer please do not misguide people. Everybody knew Pervez Musharraf threw the country into a quagmire politically and economically that was why his last words were, "Pakistan ka Khuda Hafiz" everybody know what does it mean. From abroad he said in 2010 Pakistan has entered a dead end and no chance to escape but Alhamdolillah Pakistan is today set for progress.

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