Analysis and News

Guyana’s Public and Publicly Guaranteed Debt Stock grew 20.6% in 2021

BY GEOCAP's Contributor: Richard Bhainie

The Co-operative Republic of Guyana total stock of public and publicly guaranteed debt, which comprises both external and domestic debt, increased by 20.6 percent when compared to the end-2020 figure.

For context, the World Bank, International Debt Statistics defines public debt as an external obligation of a public debtor, including the national government, a political subdivision (or an agency of either), and autonomous public bodies; and publicly guaranteed debt as an external obligation of a private debtor that is guaranteed for repayment by a public entity.

According to Guyana’s Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh during his 2022 Budget presentation on January 26, 2022, at the end of 2021, Guyana’s total stock of public and publicly guaranteed debt, which amounted to 3,126.7 million USD at the end of 2021, or 38.7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

At the end of last year, domestic public debt totalled 1,731.5 million USD, 36.4 percent higher than the position at the end of 2020, mainly due to two factors – first, an 81 percent increase in the stock of treasury bills to 702.7 million USD, and second, the issuance of debentures to the Bank of Guyana in June 2021 for a total value of 959.2 million USD.

The Finance Minister explained that the increase in the stock of treasury bills reflects Guyana’s government commitment to finance fiscal operations by recourse to the market instead of perpetuating the inherited malpractice of overdraft accumulation at the BoG.

Meanwhile, he noted that the debentures were issued primarily to securitise the inherited overdraft and the issuance of same restored a positive balance on public deposits at the BoG, along with the integrity of Guyana’s fiscal accounts.

On the other hand, the stock of external public debt grew by 5.5 percent to 1,392.8 million USD at the end of 2021. An increase which was largely influenced by positive net flows from large creditors, Dr. Singh reported.

Total public debt service payments amounted to 121.9 million USD in 2021, representing an increase of 32.1 percent, mainly as a result of higher domestic debt service payments.

It was reported that the growth of domestic debt service payments was caused by three factors: an increase in debt service payments on debentures held by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS); 2021 marked the first  year that Central Government fully covered the payments under a bond issued by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) in 2018 with a Government guarantee; and domestic debt service costs were also driven by the payment of interest which accrued on the debentures issued to securitise the overdraft.

“Over the last year, our Government has continued its well-established track record of prudent public debt management, despite global and domestic shocks which constrained economic activity, affected government revenue, and necessitated increased government spending to curb the social and economic ramifications,” Dr. Singh told the Speaker of the National Assembly during his presentation.

“In executing Guyana’s public debt management functions, we have stuck, steadfastly, to the tried and tested strategy of contracting development financing in a manner conducive to both cost minimisation and risk mitigation,” he added.

For comparison, Guyana’s Public and Publicly Guaranteed Debt Stock grew 12.2% for first half of 2021. At the end of June 2021, Guyana's total stock of public and publicly guaranteed (PPG) debt amounted to 2,907.8 million USD, with total public debt accounting for 2,905.4 million USD, and total publicly guaranteed debt for the remaining 2.4 million USD.

Since assuming office in August 2020, the new People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Government of Guyana has already crafted a new Public Debt Policy for the period 2021 - 2024 intended to aid the country in the determination, establishment and upholding of the legal and institutional frameworks which govern sovereign borrowing and provides a broad framework to help consolidate the long-term sustainability of Guyana's debt.

After the new Government resumed office, the Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, identified that it is necessary to contract new financing, in order to provide essential relief and services to the populace, invest in growth-promoting infrastructure, and stimulate an overall resurgence of the non-oil economy, as he stated in the Ministry’s Public Debt Report 2020.


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