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August 28, 2018

Finance ministry keeps mum on external debt numbers


August 28, 2018

Secretary Finance, Arif Ahmed Khan briefing Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, Asad Umar about Economic Affairs Division. APP  

ISLAMABAD: Echoing a dilemma, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government opted to keep mum about the precise figures of external debt and liabilities after the maiden briefing received here on Monday by Minister for Finance Asad Umar.

Until the numbers are made public by the government, it would remain unclear whether the definition of public debt and liabilities would be rectified with the approval of Parliament or the fudging of figures would persist for another five years.

Umar told reporters on Monday that Pakistan's external debt and liabilities had exceeded $94 billion. However, an official press statement issued by the Finance Ministry made no mention of it.

The Finance Ministry statement said the Minister was briefed on the debt management function of Economic Affairs Division (EAD). He was informed about economic cooperation with various bilateral and multilateral development partners. The briefing included financial progress reports on various foreign funded projects, as well as aspects of potential projects to be undertaken in future.

  The minister said the assessment of requirement of foreign assistance was an important function and directed the EAD to regularly update its assessment of various sectors in order to utilise resources in the most productive manner.

Sources present at the briefing said that the minister highlighted contradictions in statistics pertaining to public debt and liabilities and directed the EAD to reconcile the figures. There was a marked difference in the public debt figures presented to him because liabilities were excluded, under a change to the definition of public debt enacted under the Finance Bill 2017.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan’s total external debt and liabilities stood at $95.097 billion in June 2018, against $83.431 billion at the conclusion of fiscal year 2016-17. Out of total debt and liabilities of Rs29,861 billion, the government's domestic debt stood at Rs16,415 billion, while its external debt in rupee terms had reached Rs7,795 billion.

Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities rose sharply to the equivalent of 86.8 percent of GDP on June 30, 2018. Each Pakistani citizen is now burdened with Rs144,256 of state debt.

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