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सार्वजनिक ऋण परिचालनमा श्रीलंकाबाट सिक्नुपर्ने पाठ

– निश्चल ढुङ्गेल

यो लेख १७ मार्च २०२३ को नयाँ पत्रिकामा प्रकाशित भएको थियो। मूल लेख यहाँ पढ्नुहोस्

बदलिँदो आर्थिक र राजनीतिक परिस्थितिका कारण आधुनिक विश्वव्यापीकरण इकोसिस्टम प्रणालीले सार्वजनिक ऋण बढाएको छ । सरकारले स्वदेशी वा विदेशबाट ऋण लिने अवस्थालाई सार्वजनिक ऋण भनिन्छ । आर्थिक जटिलता र महामारीका कारण हालै सरकारी खर्च राजस्व आर्जन गर्ने क्षमताभन्दा छिटो बढेको छ । ब्याजदर वृद्धि हुँदै गर्दा बढ्दो ऋणले विकासोन्मुख राष्ट्रको सरकारी बजेटलाई असर गर्छ, जसले गर्दा यस्ता अर्थतन्त्रमा लगानी गर्नुपर्छ ।

आर्थिक र राजनीतिक परिस्थिति सन्तुलन र सार्वजनिक ऋण व्यवस्थापन एकसाथ जान्छ । मुख्य ऋणदाताबीच सहमति हुन नसक्दा श्रीलंका आर्थिक र सामाजिक कठिनाइबाट गुज्रिरहेको छ । तसर्थ, श्रीलंका भूराजनीतिक विचारको चपेटामा पर्दा सार्वभौम ऋण पुनर्संरचना हुन सकेको छैन ।

श्रीलंकाको सार्वजनिक ऋण कुल गार्हस्थ्य उत्पादन (जिडिपी) अनुपात २०१८–२१ बीच ९१ बाट ११९ प्रतिशत बढेको थियो । यस्तै, सार्वजनिक ऋण जिडिपी अनुपात २०२२ मा १२२ प्रतिशत थियो । यसमध्ये जिडिपीको ७० प्रतिशत विदेशी मुद्रामा निहित छ ।

श्रीलंकाको संकट बाह्य आर्थिक झट्का र नीतिगत गलत कदमको संयोजनले भएको हो । उसले लिएको सार्वजनिक ऋण न्यून प्रतिफलका पूर्वाधार आयोजनामा लगानी गर्दा सदुपयोग हुन सकेन । सार्वजनिक ऋण सन्तुलनमा नराख्दा, थप ऋण व्यवस्थापन गर्न देश कसरी भूराजनीतिक विचारको जटिलतामा फस्न सक्छ भन्ने ज्वलन्त उदाहरण श्रीलंका हो । नेपाल र श्रीलंकाको सार्वजनिक ऋणको अवस्था फरक भए पनि नेपालले केही पाठ भने सिक्न जरुरी छ ।

नेपालले सन् १९५१ मा बजेट ल्याउन थालेको थियो र बजेट अभ्यास सुरु भएको ११ वर्षपछि ऋण लिन थालेको थियो । हाम्रो सार्वजनिक ऋणको इतिहास धेरै पुरानो छैन । सरकारले सन् १९६२ मा स्वदेशी ऋण लिन थालेको थियो भने वैदेशिक ऋण सन् १९६३ मा मात्रै स्वीकृत भएको थियो । भूकम्पपछि संघीय सरकारमा परिणत भएपछि नेपालको सार्वजनिक ऋण विगत केही वर्षदेखि बढेर आर्थिक वर्ष सन् २०१९–२० मा कुल जिडिपीको ४२.२ प्रतिशत पुगेको छ ।

 आव २०१६–१७ मा सार्वजनिक ऋण जिडिपीको २५ प्रतिशत थियो भने २०१९–२० मा भएको उल्लेखनीय सार्वजनिक ऋण वृद्धिका लागि कोभिड महामारीको प्रभाव र प्रतिक्रिया जिम्मेवार छन् । आव २०२०–२१ मा नेपालको ऋण जिडिपी अनुपात ३९ प्रतिशत छ ।

नेपालले बहुपक्षीय संस्था र विदेशी मुलुकबाट सहुलियतपूर्ण विदेशी सहायता (अनुदान वा लामो चुक्ता अवधिको २ प्रतिशतभन्दा कम ऋण) मा पहुँच भएका कारण नेपालले उच्च ब्याजदरमा ठूला व्यावसायिक वैदेशिक ऋण लिने आवश्यकता कम छ । विश्व बैंकका अनुसार नेपालको ऋण संकट जोखिम बाह्य र कुल ऋण दुवैमा न्यून छ । अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय विकास सहयोग नीति (२०१९) ले नेपाललाई वैदेशिक व्यावसायिक ऋण लिन अनुमति दिएको भए पनि नेपालले यो अवसरलाई सदुपयोग गर्न सकेको छैन । नेपालले उच्च ब्याजदरमा ठूला व्यावसायिक वैदेशिक ऋण लिँदा होसियार हुनुपर्छ । 

उच्च ब्याजको व्यावसायिक ऋणले प्रभावकारी प्रतिफल दिन्छ कि दिँदैन भन्ने विश्लेषण गर्नुपर्छ । ताराप्रसाद उपाध्याय र टोनिक पुनले सन् १९७८–२०२० सम्मको तथ्यांक प्रयोग गरी गरेको नेपालको आर्थिक वृद्धिमा सार्वजनिक ऋण प्रभावको अध्ययनले नेपालको सार्वजनिक ऋणको स्तर र देशको आर्थिक विस्तारबीच कुनै स्पष्ट सम्बन्ध नभएको संकेत गर्छ । राजस्वका सीमित स्रोतका कारण सरकारी राजस्वभन्दा सरकारी खर्च द्रुत गतिमा बढेको छ । 

सरकारले मुख्यतया कमजोर क्षेत्रका लागि ऋण लिएको छ । राजस्व अभावले अघिल्लो ऋण तिर्न र अर्काे ऋण लिन बाध्य पारेको छ । हालको पुँजी ऋणको केही रकम सेयर बजार र जग्गामा छ । अपर्याप्त आन्तरिक स्रोत परिचालन, अत्यधिक वित्तीय घाटा, निर्यात–आयातको असन्तुलन र राजस्व र खर्चको अन्तरका कारण वैदेशिक ऋण झनै बढेको छ । तसर्थ, केही लेखकले दिगो आर्थिक वृद्धि र लगानीलाई हतोत्साहित गर्नुको सट्टा प्रोत्साहन गर्ने सम्भावना रहेसम्म घाटा वित्तपोषणलाई ध्यानमा राख्नुहुँदैन भनी तर्क गर्छन् । यसबाहेक, ऋण चुक्ता गर्ने क्षमतामा कुनै सुधार हुन सकेको छैन, अझै बाँकी रहेको सार्वजनिक ऋणको कुल रकम र ब्याजमा वृद्धि भएको छ ।

विदेशी मुद्रा सञ्चितिको आधारमा देशको ऋण अवस्थाको विश्लेषण गर्नु पनि महत्वपूर्ण छ । अमेरिकी डलरको तुलनामा नेपाली रुपैयाँ कमजोर हुँदा स्थानीय मुद्रामा नेपालको ऋण दायित्व बढेको छ । विदेशी मुद्रा सञ्चिति घट्दै गएको र विदेशी ऋणदाताबाट सरकारी उधारो बढिरहेका वेला विदेशी मुद्रा ऋण भुुक्तानी अझ चुनौतीपूर्ण हुन सक्छ ।

नेपालको प्रत्यक्ष वैदेशिक लगानी (एफडिआई) जिडिपीको ०.५ प्रतिशत दक्षिण एसियामा सबैभन्दा कम हो । एफडिआई थ्रेसहोल्ड एनपिआर दुई करोडमा घटाउँदा एफडिआईको प्रवाहमा थप कमी आउँछ । थप पुँजी प्रवाह प्रतिबन्धले जिडिपीमा नकारात्मक प्रभाव पार्न सक्छ, तर एफडिआईले राष्ट्रको ऋण नबढाउने र विदेशी मुद्रा सञ्चितिमा तनाव कम गर्ने अतिरिक्त लाभ प्रदान गर्दछ । 

सरकारले लामो समयदेखि ढिलाइ भएको एफडिआईमा सुधार ल्याउनुपर्छ । जस्तै, नियामक स्वीकृति प्रक्रियालाई सरल बनाउने, जसले विदेशी मुद्रा प्रवाह निम्त्याउने र विकासलाई बढावा दिन पुँजी र प्रविधिको स्थानान्तरणलाई प्रोत्साहित गर्ने । सरकारले अहिले मुलुकको विदेशी मुद्रा सञ्चिति बढाउन विभिन्न प्रयास गरिरहेको छ ।

बढ्दो ऋण रोक्न नयाँ पारित सार्वजनिक ऋण व्यवस्थापन ऐनले जिडिपीको एकतिहाइमा बाह्य ऋणको सीमा तोकेको छ । यो उपाय सरकारलाई लापरबाहीपूर्वक ऋण लिनबाट रोक्न र भविष्यमा थप पैसा उधारो गर्न समय तालिकामा ऋण तिर्न उत्प्रेरित गर्नका लागि हो । नेपालले विदेशी मुद्रा सञ्चिति घट्न नदिन विलासिताका सामानको आयातमा प्रतिबन्ध लगाउने विभिन्न उपाय पनि ल्यायो र विदेशी मुद्रा सञ्चिति बढेपछि प्रतिबन्ध हटायो । यी अन्तर्निहित विशेषताले हालको विश्वव्यापी उथलपुथलको बढ्दो मूल्य, रेमिट्यान्समा प्रभाव र फराकिलो व्यापार असन्तुलनप्रति नेपालले कस्तो प्रतिक्रिया देखाउँछ भन्ने कुरालाई निरन्तरता दिनेछ ।

आव ०७९/८० माघ मसान्तको पहिलो ६ महिनाको राजस्व संकलन गत वर्षको तुलनामा १५ प्रतिशतले घटेको छ । प्रक्षेपणअनुसार राजस्व उठाउन नसक्दा अर्थ मन्त्रालयले संघीय सरकारको बजेट २० प्रतिशतले घटाएको छ ।पारिश्रमिक, निवृत्तिभरण, सामाजिक सुरक्षा र रासायनिक मल र विपद् व्यवस्थापनमा दिइने अनुदानको बढ्दो दायित्वले सरकारको चालू खर्चमा बाधा पुगेको छ । स्वदेशी तथा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय ऋणको ब्याज सरकारले तिर्नुपर्छ । अमेरिकी डलरको तुलनामा नेपाली रुपैयाँको अवमूल्यनले वैदेशिक ऋण तिर्न महँगो साबित हुनेछ ।

चालू आर्थिक वर्षको बजेटमार्फत ८ प्रतिशत आर्थिक वृद्धि हासिल गर्ने लक्ष्य लिएको सरकारले ४.५ प्रतिशत मात्रै पुग्ने बताएको छ । चालू आवमा लिएको महत्वाकांक्षी लक्ष्य पूरा नहुने देखिएको छ । बाह्य क्षेत्रको दबाब र आर्थिक चुनौतीलाई बेवास्ता गरी निर्धारण गरिएका यस्ता लक्ष्यले सरकारलाई संसद्प्रति वित्तीय जवाफदेही बनाउँदैन । सरकारले विगत सात महिनामा सिद्धान्तविपरीत थप रकम परिचालन गरेको छ । अर्थ मन्त्रालयको विज्ञप्तिअनुसार मंसिरमा भएको संघीय र प्रदेशको निर्वाचनलाई लक्षित गरी असोजमा रकम वितरण गरिएको उल्लेख छ । 

अर्थ मन्त्रालयले जारी गरेको विवरणअनुसार पछिल्लो सात महिनामा ८५ अर्ब ६० करोडभन्दा बढी बजेट सिद्धान्तविपरीत परिचालन भएको छ । बजेट जनप्रतिनिधिमूलक सर्वाेच्च संस्था संसद्बाट पारित गरिन्छ । सरकारले गर्ने आय–व्ययको हरहिसाब संसद्ले अनुमोदन गरेपछि मात्रै निर्धारण हुन्छ । देश विकासको नारा लगाउँदै सरकारमा बस्ने राजनीतिक नेतृत्वले चुनावमा मतदाता रिझाउने गरी पैसा बाँड्न ढुकुटी दोहन गर्नु कत्तिको जायज छ ?

नेपालका राज्य संस्थामा ‘चेक एन्ड ब्यालेन्स’ समस्या भइरहेका छन् । सुशासनका लागि उत्कृष्ट नेतृत्वको अलावा पारदर्शिता, जवाफदेहिता, चेक एन्ड ब्यालेन्स आवश्यक छ । सरकारले ०२३ मा कर छली रोक्न र आफ्नो राजस्वको आधारलाई फराकिलो बनाउन, सार्वजनिक उधारोका लागि देशको आवश्यकता बढाउन संघर्ष गर्नेछ । नयाँ सरकार आएसँगै वित्तीय र मौद्रिक नीतिलाई ‘सिंक्रोनाइज’ गर्दै उत्पादनशील क्षेत्रमा लगानी बढाउन तरलता अभावलाई कम गर्नुपर्छ । 

संरचनात्मक अवरोध सम्बोधन

पूर्वउपलब्धिको निर्माण र संरचनात्मक अवरोधलाई सम्बोधन गर्नाले विकासलाई गति दिन, निजी लगानी आकर्षित गर्न, उत्पादकत्व बढाउन र अल्पविकसित देशको स्थितिबाट सफलतापूर्वक उत्तीर्ण हुन र सन् २०२६ सम्म निम्नमध्यम आयको स्थिति हासिल गर्न जलवायु अनुकूलता विकास गर्न मद्दत गर्नेछ । आर्थिक वृद्धिका लागि नेपालको योजना र कसरी व्यापार, पूर्वाधार, विनिमय दर र अन्य आर्थिक नीतिले आर्थिक विकासमा सहयोग पु‍¥याउँछ भन्ने अझै स्पष्ट छैन ।

व्यापार र प्रत्यक्ष वैदेशिक लगानीलाई प्रोत्साहन गर्ने वातावरण, वित्तीय क्षेत्रको वृद्धि, मानव पुँजी निर्माण र सुशासन अभिवृद्धि गरी विकासको सम्भावना बढाउनुपर्छ । राष्ट्रले ऋण लिएको रकम उत्पादनशील क्षेत्रमा उपयोग गरी सरकारको ऋण न्यूनीकरणमा सहयोग गर्ने कार्यक्रम बनाउनुपर्छ । नेपालले सन् २०२६ मा एलडिसी समूहबाट बाहिरिने योजना बनाएकाले ऋण चुक्ता गर्न उच्च दक्षता स्तर भएका उत्पादक क्षेत्रमा लगानी गरेर दिगो अर्थतन्त्र निर्माण गर्न ऋण लिएको रकमको लामो समयमा चुक्ता गर्ने अवधिसहित कम ब्याजदरको फाइदा उठाउनु महत्वपूर्ण हुन्छ ।

OP-EDs and Columns

Public debt paradox

– NISCHAL DHUNGEL

The opinion piece originally appeared in The Kathmandu Post on 2 February 2023. Please read the original article here.

The modern globalised ecosystem has increased public debt due to changing economic and political circumstances. Handling public debt goes hand in hand with an effort to balance those circumstances. Public debt is a domestic or foreign loan issued by a government, which remains a viable option to support government spending, and development initiatives, for which the government lacks funding. Owing to economic complexity and the Covid-19 pandemic, government spending has recently increased more quickly than its capacity to generate revenue. With interest rates skyrocketing, the rising debt severely impacts the budgets of developing countries that must invest in their economies.

Nepal started budgeting in 1951, taking debt 11 years after the budgetary practice began. The history of our public debt is not very old. The government started taking domestic loans in 1962, while foreign loans were only accepted beginning in 1963. Post-earthquake and transition to federalism, Nepal’s public debt has increased over the past several years, reaching 42.2 percent of GDP in fiscal 2019-20 from a progressive reduction of 25 percent of GDP in fiscal 2016-17. The impact of Covid-19 and responses to it are responsible for the significant increase in fiscal 2019-20. The debt-to-GDP ratio for Nepal stood at 39 percent in fiscal 2020-21. Due to Nepal’s access to concessional funding (grants or loans less than 2 percent with long repayment periods) from multilateral institutions and foreign countries, its foreign debt servicing needs are low. As per the World Bank, Nepal’s debt distress risk is rated low for both external and total debt. The International Development Cooperation Policy (2019) allows Nepal to obtain a foreign commercial loan, but Nepal has yet to utilise this opportunity. The country needs to be careful while borrowing large commercial foreign loans with highinterest rates.

The impact of public debt on Nepal’s economic growth, examined by the journal Public Debt and Economic Growth of Nepal utilising data from 1978 to 2020, indicates no clear link between public debt levels and economic expansion. The limited revenue sources have resulted in a rise in government spending more quickly than government revenue. The government has borrowed money primarily for weak areas, leaving it cash-strapped and forcing it to take out another loan to repay the previous ones. Some of the current capital loan money is in the stock market and land. Due to insufficient domestic resource mobilisation, excessive fiscal deficit, export-import imbalance, and gaps in revenue and spending, the external debt has worsened. Thus, some authors argue that deficit financing should not be considered as long as there is sustained economic growth and the possibility of encouraging investment rather than discouraging it. Furthermore, there has been no improvement in the country’s capability to repay debt; there has only been an increase in overall public debt and interest.

It is also crucial to analyse the country’s debt condition in light of its foreign exchange reserves. The depreciation of the Nepali rupee against the US dollar has increased Nepal’s debt liability in local currency terms. Foreign currency debt payments may become more challenging at a time of shrinking foreign currency reserves and rising government borrowing from foreign creditors. Nepal’s foreign direct investment (FDI) is the lowest in the region at 0.5 percent of GDP. The impact of lowering the FDI threshold to Rs20 million will further decrease the inflow of FDI. Further, capital flow restrictions may have negative effects on GDP, but FDI offers the extra benefit of not increasing the nation’s debt and relieving strain on foreign exchange reserves. The government should put in place long-delayed FDI reforms, such as simplifying regulatory approval processes, which would lead to foreign currency inflows and spur the transfer of capital and technology to boost growth.

Lesson from Bangladesh

Thanks to a robust economy and a stable government, Bangladesh has avoided relying on foreign forces for domestic survival. Three factors—exports (second largest clothing exporter), remittances (one of the biggest recipients), and fuel prices (relies on imported fuels)—together account for the majority of the economic health of the country. But these factors are in jeopardy due to a global economic slowdown that is particularly destructive in developing nations. Bangladesh has less money to import fuel as exports fall and prices rise simultaneously. It has decided to postpone non-urgent projects and expressed concerns about a growing trade deficit and a decline in remittances.

However, Nepal’s exports are not as strong as Bangladesh’s, and will be less affected by the global slowdown. The government of Nepal is making several efforts to boost foreign reserve exchange. To stop the mounting debt, the newly passed Public Debt Management Act set a limit on external debt at one-third of the GDP. This measure is intended to prevent the government from borrowing carelessly and motivate it to pay down its debts on schedule so it can borrow more money in the future. Nepal also came up with a slew of measures to ban imports of luxury goods to prevent the depletion of its foreign exchange reserves and ended the ban as foreign reserves rose. These underlying traits will continue to shape how Nepal and Bangladesh react to the current global upheavals, including growing prices, impact on remittances, and widened trade imbalance.

State institutions in Nepal are fragile and continue to have problems with checks and balances. The government will struggle in 2023 to stop tax evasion and broaden its revenue base, increasing its need for public borrowing. With a new government in place, synchronising fiscal and monetary policy should ease liquidity shortage to fuel investment in productive sectors. A significant issue with the democratic history of Bangladesh is the absence of robust and viable opposition. Despite political hiccups and mounting public debt, Bangladesh has made commendable economic progress. Nepal and Bangladesh are unlikely to have the same situation as Sri Lanka if their policy measures successfully utilise public debt, and balance national goals and domestic capabilities.

Addressing structural barriers

Building on prior accomplishments and addressing structural barriers will help to accelerate growth, attract private investment, boost productivity, and develop climate resilience to successfully graduate from the least developed country’s (LDC) status and achieve lower middle-income status by 2026. Nepal’s plan for economic growth and how trade, infrastructure, exchange rates, and other economic policies can help with economic development is still unclear. The growth potential will be increased by fostering an environment, encouraging trade and foreign direct investment, growing the financial sector, building human capital, and enhancing good governance. The country must spend the borrowed funds wisely and enact programmes to reduce debt. As Nepal plans to leave the LDC status in 2026, it is crucial to leverage the advantage of a lower interest rate with a long repayment period of borrowed funds. It should then work towards building a sustainable economy by investing in productive sectors with high-efficiency levels to repay the loans over time.

OP-EDs and Columns

अमेरिकामा ब्याजदर बढ्दा संसारभर किन पर्छ असर ?

– NISCHAL Dhungel, Non-Resident Fellow

The opinion piece originally appeared in the Naya Patrika Daily on 22 August 2022. Please read the original article here.

विश्वव्यापी अर्थतन्त्र अझै पनि कोभिड–१९ महामारीबाट गुज्रिरहेका वेला, उन्नत अर्थतन्त्रमा रहेका केन्द्रीय बैंकहरूले ब्याजदर बढाइरहेका छन्, जसले विश्वको बाँकी देशहरूमा ठूलो प्रभाव पार्नेछ । अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मुद्रा कोषको (आइएमएफ)को ‘विश्व आर्थिक परिदृश्य’ प्रतिवेदनले विश्वव्यापी वृद्धि घट्ने अनुमान गरेको छ । विशेष गरी उदीयमान र विकासशील राष्ट्रहरूका लागि बढ्दो सामाजिक र आर्थिक जोखिमहरूको पूर्वानुमान पनि गरेको छ । रुस–युक्रेन द्वन्द्वले नीतिगत ट्रेड अफलाई सन्तुलनमा राख्न चुनौतीपूर्ण बनाएको छ ।

मुद्रास्फीतिसँग लड्न, आर्थिक सुधारको संरक्षण गर्न, अर्को कमजोरहरूलाई मद्दत गर्न र वित्तीय बफरहरू पुनस्र्थापित गर्न चुनौती छ । रुस–युक्रेन द्वन्द्व र आपूर्ति शृंखला अवरोधका कारण खाद्यान्न र इन्धनको मूल्यवृद्धि बढ्दै जाने देखिन्छ । विशेष गरी कम आय भएका देशहरूको कमजोर जनसंख्यालाई हानि पुर्‍याएको छ । हालै संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाको फेडरल रिजर्भले उपभोक्ता मूल्य ८.७ प्रतिशत बढेपछि मुद्रास्फीतिविरुद्धको लडाइँलाई तीव्र पारेको छ । १५ जुन २०२२ मा फेडले १९९४ पछिको उच्च ब्याजदर वृद्धिको घोषणा गर्‍यो । फेडले आगामी दिनमा ब्याजदर अझ बढाउने योजना बनाएको छ । अमेरिकामा ब्याजदर बढाएर मुद्रास्फीति घटाउने फेडरल रिजर्भको प्रयासले बाँकी विश्वलाई नोक्सान पुर्‍याउन सक्छ । अमेरिकाको बढ्दो ब्याजदर मध्यम र न्यून आय भएका देशहरूका लागि दुस्प्रभावी हुने थुप्रै कारण छन् । 

पुँजी पलायन
विकसित राष्ट्रहरूमा कम ब्याजदरको लामो युगपछि लगानीकर्ताले उच्च प्रतिफलको खोजीमा विकासशील र उदीयमान बजारहरूमा आफ्नो अधिक पुँजी केन्द्रित गर्न थाले । विकसित देशहरूमा ब्याजदरमा भएको तीव्र वृद्धिले अमेरिकामा ठूलो पुँजी प्रवाह र विकासोन्मुख देशहरूबाट निकासी बढ्नेछ । अमेरिकामा ब्याजदर बढ्दै जाँदा उदीयमान बजारहरूमा लगानी गर्ने लगानीकर्ताले उच्च प्रतिफलको फाइदा लिनका लागि अमेरिकामा पुँजी स्थानान्तरण गर्ने निर्णय गर्न सक्छन्, किनभने उनीहरूका लागि अमेरिकामा लगानी गर्नु बढी फाइदाजनक हुनेछ । 

ऋण संकट र मुद्रा अवमूल्यन
इतिहासले देखाउँछ कि राष्ट्रहरूको तीव्र आर्थिक विस्तारक्रममा ऋण बढ्ने गर्ने गर्दछ । विशेष गरी विकासोन्मुख देशहरूमा ‘ऋण पासो’ (डेब्ट ट्र्याप) तब हुन्छ, जब उत्पादकता र ऋण सन्तुलनमा रहँदैन । अमेरिकामा बढेको ब्याजदरका कारण विश्वव्यापी ब्याजदर बढ्न सक्छ । धनी देशहरूको केही केन्द्रीय बैंकले ब्याजदर बढाइसके । अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मुद्रा कोष (आइएमएफ)का अनुसार ३८ उदीयमान अर्थतन्त्र खतरामा छन् वा हाल ऋण संकटमा छन् ।

सन् २०१९ र २०२१ को बीचमा महामारीले विकासशील अर्थतन्त्रहरूमा सार्वजनिक ऋणमा (जिडिपीको ५४ प्रतिशतबाट ६५ प्रतिशतसम्म तीव्र वृद्धि ल्यायो । कम्तीमा २५ विकासशील अर्थतन्त्रले आफ्नो सरकारी आयको २० प्रतिशतभन्दा बढी विदेशी सार्वजनिक ऋण सेवामा खर्च गर्छन् । आइएमएफले विकसित अर्थतन्त्रहरूमा ब्याजदर वृद्धिले उदीयमान बजार र विकासोन्मुख देशहरूका लागि बाह्य वित्तीय अवस्थालाई असर पार्न सक्ने उल्लेख गरेको छ ।

विकासोन्मुख देशहरूको मुद्रा अवमूल्यन, जसले क्रय शक्तिलाई कम गर्छ र अमेरिकी डलरजस्ता विदेशी मुद्राहरूमा ऋण तिर्न गाह्रो बनाउँछ । यस कारण बढ्दो ब्याजदर उदीयमान अर्थतन्त्रका लागि अर्को जोखिम हुन सक्छ । सन १९८० को प्रारम्भमा फेड ब्याजदर वृद्धिले संयुक्त राज्यमा दोहोरो अंकको मुद्रास्फीति कम ग¥यो, तर विश्वव्यापी रूपमा धेरै देशमा नराम्रो असर पर्‍यो । विशेष गरी ल्याटिन अमेरिकी देशहरूमा ऋण डिफल्ट भयो । बेरोजगारी र गरिबी बढ्यो र जिडिपीमा ठूलो गिरावट आयो । त्यो समयलाई ‘हराएको दशक’ (लस्ट डिकेड) भन्ने गरिन्छ, जहाँ ल्याटिन अमेरिकी देशहरू क्रमिक र असमान पुनरुत्थानमा गुज्रिरहेका थिए । अफ्रिकाका भारी ऋणी राष्ट्रहरूले ल्याटिन अमेरिकाजस्तै समान समस्या झेल्नुपर्‍यो ।

चीनको उदाहरण : ऋण दिगोपन र ऋण व्यवस्थापन
उच्च र बढ्दो ऋण–जिडिपी अनुपात सामान्यतया गैरजिम्मेवार उधारोपनाको संकेत हो । यस्तो गैरजिम्मेवार उधारो कटौती गर्नुपर्छ । बढ्दो ऋणलाई उच्च सरकारी तलब वा ठूला निवृत्तिभरणका लागि उपभोग गर्ने कि शिक्षा र पूर्वाधारजस्ता उत्पादनशीलता बढाउने सार्वजनिक वस्तुहरूमा लगानी गर्ने भन्ने कुरामा ध्यान दिनुपर्छ । ऋण–जिडिपी अनुपात बढ्दा दीर्घकालीन पूर्वाधारमा लगानी कति भयो र उत्पादनशीलता र प्रतिफल कति बढायो भन्ने कुरा महत्वपूर्ण हुन्छ । यस विषयमा श्रीलंका र अफ्रिकी मुलुकबाट पाठ सिक्न सकिन्छ ।

चीनले १९९७–१९९८ र २००८–२००९ मा वित्तीय संकटबाट बच्न विस्तारित वित्तीय र मौद्रिक नीतिको प्रयोग गरेर पूर्वाधार र सामाजिक खर्चहरूमा सार्वजनिक लगानीलाई प्रोत्साहन गरेको थियो । आफ्नो पुँजी खातालाई पूर्ण रूपमा उदारीकरण नगर्दा पनि चीनले राम्रो आर्थिक नतिजा हासिल गरेको छ । विगत ४७ वर्षमा चीनको आक्रामक वृद्धिलाई प्रभावकारी आर्थिक योजना र कार्यान्वयनलगायत स्थिर नीतिले बल दिएको छ ।

नेपालजस्तो देश विकासको प्रारम्भिक चरणमा छ र छोटो अवधिको राजस्व आर्जनलाई परियोजना छनोटका लागि प्राथमिकता दिनुपर्दछ । चीनजस्ता धेरै देशले विकेन्द्रीकृत वित्तीय प्रणाली अपनाएका छन्, जसले वित्तीय स्थायित्वको विश्लेषणलाई जटिल बनाउँछ । चीनमा धेरैजसो सार्वजनिक सामाजिक खर्च स्थानीय सरकारहरूमा निहित हुन्छ, जबकि राजस्व विनियोजन केन्द्र सरकारले नियन्त्रण गर्छ । स्थानीय सरकारहरूले आफ्नो आवश्यकता पूरा गर्न ऋणपत्र जारी गर्छन् र स्थानीय सरकारले आफ्नो वित्तीय प्रणाली बुझ्न महत्वपूर्ण छ । 

अर्थतन्त्रको आकार र संरचनामा धेरै फरक भए पनि नेपाल र श्रीलंकाजस्ता देशले चीनको विकास अनुभवबाट फाइदा लिन सक्छन् । चीनको विकेन्द्रीकृत आर्थिक विकासले स्थानीय सरकार र वित्तीय संस्थाहरूलाई संघीय सरकारभन्दा बढी महत्व दिन्छ, जसले गर्दा लगानी र वित्तीय निर्णय गर्न मद्दत हुन्छ । दीर्घकालीन विकास लक्ष्य हासिल गर्न स्थानीय विकास रणनीति र नीतिहरू राष्ट्रिय प्राथमिकतासँग मिल्नुपर्छ । तर, स्थानीय आर्थिक कार्यसम्पादनका लागि स्थानीय निकायलाई जवाफदेही बनाउनुपर्छ । 

नेपालको सन्दर्भ 
नेपाल एउटा यस्तो राष्ट्र हो, जसलाई संरचनात्मक परिवर्तनको नितान्त आवश्यकता छ । समस्या मौलिक भएकाले संरचनात्मक सुधार नै छोटो र दीर्घकालीन जवाफ खोज्ने एक मात्र उपाय हो । भुक्तानी सन्तुलन कायम गरी बाह्य क्षेत्रमाथिको दबाब कम गर्न ऋण विस्तार र क्षेत्रगत वितरणको व्यवस्थापन, अत्यधिक आयात घटाउने र औपचारिक माध्यमबाट रेमिट्यान्स आप्रवाहमा सुधार गर्न आवश्यक छ । मौद्रिक नीतिले बैंकिङ र निजी क्षेत्रहरूलाई वर्तमान वातावरणमा ऋण प्रयोग गर्दा बढी सावधानी र जवाफदेहिता अपनाउन निर्देशन दिनुपर्छ । तीन दशकसम्म उच्च कर्जा वृद्धि भए पनि आर्थिक वृद्धिदर ४.४ प्रतिशत मात्रै रह्यो । यसले हाम्रो कर्जा वृद्धि नीतिले आर्थिक वृद्धिमा सकारात्मक प्रभाव पार्न नसकेको देखाउँछ । आगामी दशकमा आर्थिक वृद्धिलाई प्रत्यक्ष रूपमा सहयोग गर्ने क्षेत्रमा ऋण प्रवाह केन्द्रित हुनुपर्छ । कर्जाको वृद्धि पनि निक्षेप वृद्धिसँग मिल्दो हुनुपर्छ ।

आयात प्रतिस्थापनको सन्दर्भमा निजी क्षेत्रले जिम्मेवार र सक्रियताका साथ काम गर्नुपर्छ, आयातको सट्टा स्वदेशी उत्पादन वृद्धि गर्नुपर्छ । निजी र बैंकिङ क्षेत्रले घरेलु उत्पादन बढाउन सहयोगी सरकारका नीतिहरूसँग मिलेर काम गर्नुपर्छ । आयात र व्यापारमुखी अर्थतन्त्रलाई उत्पादक अर्थतन्त्रमा परिणत गर्ने, अर्थतन्त्रलाई विश्वव्यापी मूल्य शृंखलामा जोड्ने, घरेलु कच्चा पदार्थमा आधारित औद्योगीकरणलाई प्रोत्साहन गर्ने, खुला सिमानाका कारण लामो समयदेखि चलिरहेको आर्थिक घाटा कम गर्ने केही दीर्घकालीन उपाय हुन् ।

हालको कोभिड प्रकोपको सामना गर्न र कठिन परिस्थितिमा विकासका आवश्यकता पूरा गर्न केही नीतिगत विकल्प छन् । संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघको व्यापार र विकास सम्मेलनले सार्वभौम ऋणको पुनर्संरचनाका लागि बहुपक्षीय कानुनी ढाँचाका लागि वकालत गरेको छ, जसले निष्पक्ष र व्यवस्थित ऋण संकट समाधान ल्याउनेछ, जसले सार्वजनिक र निजी ऋणदाता दुवैलाई समावेश गर्दछ । आइएमएफले थप ऋण जारी गर्न सक्छ । आइएमएफ, विश्व बैंक समूह र क्षेत्रीय वित्तीय व्यवस्था (आरएफएएस)लाई थप आपत्कालीन तरलता ऋण जारी र वितरणलाई छिटो गर्न सकिन्छ । पहिले नै सम्पन्न सार्वजनिक सम्पत्ति परियोजनाहरूमा आधारित नवीन वित्त पोषण र पुनर्वित्त योजनाहरू डिजाइन गर्ने अर्को उपाय हुन्छ, जसलाई ‘सम्पत्ति–आधारित पुनर्वित्त’ पनि भनिन्छ । विश्वव्यापी ऋण–राहत संयन्त्र, जसले संघर्षरत राष्ट्रहरूमा वित्तीय संकट रोक्न सक्छ र थप विवेकपूर्ण उधारो र ऋणका लागि दिशानिर्देश आवश्यक हुन्छ ।

अन्त्यमा, उन्नत देशहरूको ब्याजदर वृद्धिले न्यून आय भएका देशहरूलाई प्रत्यक्ष वा अप्रत्यक्ष रूपमा असर गर्छ । कम आय भएका देशलाई संरचनात्मक सुधारको आवश्यकता छ, जुन आफ्नो ऋण व्यवस्थापन गर्न छोटो र दीर्घकालीन समाधान खोज्न एकदम महत्वपूर्ण छ ।

Research Commentaries

US interest rate hikes trample on developing countries

– NISCHAL Dhungel, Non-Resident Fellow

The commentary originally appeared on the East Asia Forum, a forum based at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, on 18 August 2022. Read the original article here.

The International Monetary Fund’s recent World Economic Outlook report paints a bleak economic future. It has downgraded global growth predictions from 6.1 per cent in 2021 to 3.2 per cent in 2022. While the global economy is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, central banks in advanced economies are hiking interest rates — a policy change that will have a significant global impact.

The depressing growth predictions are a consequence of tighter monetary policy and the increasing threat of social and economic risks, particularly for emerging and developing nations. Food and fuel prices have skyrocketed due to the Russia–Ukraine war and supply chain bottlenecks. The Russia–Ukraine conflict has made it challenging to balance fighting inflation, supporting the global economic recovery, helping the vulnerable and restoring fiscal buffers.

The US Federal Reserve (Fed) stepped up its fight against inflation after consumer prices increased 8.6 per cent in the United States. On 15 June 2022, the Fed voted to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 0.75–1 per cent. It plans to implement additional hikes for the rest of 2022. But efforts to reduce inflation by increasing interest rates in the United States could harm the rest of the world.

As interest rates rise in the United States, those who invest in emerging markets to receive higher rates of return may invest in the more appealing US market. This will result in massive capital inflows to the United States and increased outflows from the developing world. Without proportionally tighter domestic monetary policies, the ensuing rise in borrowing costs will deplete foreign reserves, appreciate the US dollar and result in balance sheet losses for nations with US dollar-denominated net obligations.

Rising US interest rates have the greatest impact on economies with higher macroeconomic vulnerabilities. Between 2019 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp rise in public debt in developing economies — on average increasing from 54 per cent to 65 per cent of GDP.

Thirty-eight emerging economies are now in danger of a debt crisis or are currently experiencing one. At least 25 developing economies spend over 20 per cent of government income on servicing foreign public debt. This is why interest rate hikes in advanced economies could tighten external financial conditions for emerging markets and developing countries.

There is a worrying comparability between today’s economy and the economy of the 1970s and early 1980s which was rife with high inflation, slow growth and rising borrowing costs. In the 1970s, oil exporters benefitting from increasing energy prices used their surpluses to increase funding for debt markets in emerging market economies. Fed rate hikes in the early 1980s reduced inflation in the United States but drove up global interest rates, causing many emerging economies to default on their debts.

The debt crisis that followed the Volcker shock was distressing for developing nations. The Fed interest rate hike had a devastating effect on Latin America. The region experienced plummeting GDP and ballooning unemployment and poverty. The subsequent decade was lost to gradual and uneven economic recovery. The consequences of the Latin American debt crisis were similarly experienced in Africa’s heavily indebted nations. The Fed did not pay enough attention to how its choices would affect the rest of the world.

Though today’s economic situation has similar origins to that of the 1970s and 1980s, there are some significant distinctions. Today, oil producers acutely feel the world’s reducing dependence on oil. Real oil price increases are smaller than they have been historically. Policy tightening in response to the economic downturn has also begun sooner than it did in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in certain emerging markets and developing nations. Unlike the 1970s and the 1980s, there has not been as much time for recycled petrodollars to fuel imbalances in developing and emerging market economies.

Despite these encouraging developments, new risks have emerged. Due to increased exposure to sizeable bilateral creditors and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, public debt has risen and stunted the growth potential of many countries.

While international financial institutions are doing their part to provide debt relief and stop punitive measures like surcharges — additional fees imposed on countries that fail to make debt repayments —  there needs to be swift and systematic action on debt resolution. This must involve collaboration with private creditors and large state creditors like China. Major food and fuel businesses must be prevented from profiteering and speculating.

Special drawing rights (SDRs) — a foreign reserve asset issued by the IMF that can be used for foreign exchange stability in addition to gold or US dollars — must be redistributed to those countries that urgently require them. A new release of special drawing rights with an equivalent value of US$650 billion is necessary for immediate relief. The UN Conference on Trade and Development has advocated an alternative way to facilitate fair and orderly debt crisis resolutions. It would involve a multilateral legal framework for restructuring sovereign debt using both public and private creditors.

Interest rate increases in advanced countries will always impact low-income countries. But that does not negate the need to pursue structural reform in low-income countries. Structural reform is the only way to find short and long-term solutions to debt management.

SAB Blog

SAB Blog – The Maldives

Domestic Updates

The Maldives is at a high risk of dollar reserve depletion by 2023. The primary causes are Covid-19’s impact on the tourism industry, soaring global fuel prices, and rising borrowing costs. Maldives has USD 829 million in reserve. However, the national debt, at USD 5.9 billion in 2021, has ballooned to USD 6.4 billion in the first quarter of 2022.

Minister of Finance, Ibrahim Ameer, assured that the Maldivian finance is in better shape now than in the last three years. The economy is growing with the arrival of tourists. The Maldives is expected to grow at 13-18 percent in 2022.

Regional Engagement

Maldives and India conducted the second joint hydrographic survey of Maldives, covering 6500 nautical miles. The survey is critical for the Maldives to update the Navigational Charts/Electronic Navigational Charts for ship safety in several areas of Maldives and enhance Blue Economy. The first phase of the survey started in 2021. Some of those areas were not surveyed since 1853.

The joint survey resulted from India’s policy of supporting the Maldives to set up Hydrographic facilities. India provided the Maldives with hydrographic survey equipment in 2021 and 2022. The joint survey will enable economic development, defence, security, coastal zone management, environmental protection, and scientific research.

Global Engagement

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih sought approval from the parliament to join the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC). Maldives is not a member of ITFC. Yet, ITFC has provided financial assistance to the Maldives since 2005. ITFC aims to advance trade among members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The Russian invasion of Ukraine has adversely impacted Maldivian tourism. The two countries jointly accounted for 14 percent of tourist arrivals between January to March of the current year. Despite this, Maldives condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) vote. Furthermore, the Maldives has reiterated its firm belief in principles of respect for sovereign states and sovereign equality. Yet, Maldives has taken a cautious approach to enforcing the sanctions imposed by the West in the aftermath of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

SAB Blog

SAB Blog – Sri Lanka

Domestic Development

Sri Lanka has faced its most challenging economic crisis since independence. Long-term structural factors and the current government’s poor financial decisions caused the trouble.

Sri Lanka imports more than it exports, and the balance of payment deficit has been a constant feature of the economy since 1977. These gaps were plastered over with the revenues generated by foreign remittances and tourism. However, the pandemic hurt foreign remittances and tourism.

Prime Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s disastrous policies, such as significant tax concessions soon after his ascension, the decision to go fully organic overnight in 2021, and the soft peg of the Sri Lankan rupee exacerbated the problem.

Things took a disastrous turn for the worst on 9 May when Rajapaksa loyalists attacked peaceful, anti-government protestors at Galle Face Green, Colombo. The protesters had earlier convened at Prime Minister’s official residence near Galle Face and had been egged on by several government parliamentarians.

Following the government crackdown, many citizens, mobilized through social media, attacked pro-Rajapaksa mobs that had arrived in Colombo. Many Rajapaksa supporters who took part in the assault of peaceful protestors in Galle Face were attacked while returning home. Over 150 properties, mainly belonging to politicians were burnt, and angry mobs killed several politicians. Following the widespread violence, Prime Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president’s brother, resigned on the same day. Other ministers followed suit.

President Rajapaksa’s hold on power was increasingly more tenuous. Opposition parties were not keen to form a unity government under the president.

On 12 May, the president appointed the former Prime Minister and the leader of the United National Party (UNP), Ranil Wickremesinghe. The following days saw the appointment of a Cabinet of Ministers comprising members of Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and some defectors from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).

Wickremesinghe made a statement on the state of the Sri Lankan economy on 29 May, in which he promised five finance committees and ten oversight committees to resolve the economic and political crisis faced by the country. He also pledged to introduce checks and balances to the powers vested on the executive president through a 21st constitutional amendment.

Regional Engagement

Sri Lanka’s dependency on India continued to grow in May, especially concerning the fuel supply. Sri Lanka spends over USD 500 million on fuel, a cost she can’t afford to bear. Some Sri Lankan media reported that Indian assistance was worth 6 billion US dollars in the last six months.

Meanwhile, China, one of the leading financiers of successive Sri Lankan governments, has sat on the sidelines during this crisis. China pledged 76 million US dollars in assistance and shipped large quantities of medicines and food but has not offered loans or a credit line. It comes despite Sri Lankan requests to China for a loan of USD 1 billion and a credit line of USD 1.5 billion.

Global Engagement

Sri Lanka suspended external debt repayments on 12 April and announced a plan to restructure its debt. The country is now attempting to restructure over USD 12 billion in overseas debt (total external debt of USD 51 billion). In late May, Sri Lanka hired heavyweight financial and legal advisers Lazard Freres and Clifford Chance to help renegotiate debts. Meanwhile, most Sri Lankan bondholders have appointed negotiators Rothschild, who is reputed to be extremely unwilling to accept a haircut. Sri Lanka has pinned its hopes on International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance. However, given that this may take a few months, Sri Lanka needs to find bridge finance. So far, only India has stepped in.

NIPoRe DatavizNIPoRe Updates

NDV0009 – Government Debt as Percentage of GDP (South and Southeast Asia Plus China)

THE ISSUE

It has become a commonplace phenomenon for the governments around the world to borrow money from outside to support their activities. When they borrow the external money, the governments are liable to pay back the borrowed amount as per the terms and conditions agreed with the lenders. This thus borrowed money is called as the government debt (or public debt or national debt or sovereign debt). Depending upon from whom the states borrow money, the debt can be classified as either internal debt (lenders are within the respective country) or external debt (lenders are located outside of an economy). In addition, considering repayment plans, debt is further classified into three categories namely short-term (repayment due date within one year or less time), mid-term (repayment due date vary between 1-10 years), and long-term (repayment due date remains more than 10 years). In general, the governments become liable to debt by issuing their respective government bonds and bills.

STATUS OF THE GLOBAL DEBT

As per the IMF’s 2019 estimates, in nominal terms, the global debt has exceeded US$ 184 trillion – equivalent of more than 225 percent of global GDP in year 2017. This means, global debt per capita now stands at more than US$ 86,000. Of the US$ 184 trillion global debt towards the end of 2017, about ⅔ is private debt and rest is government debt. As per the IMF’s Global Debt Database, the total global government debt has hit a record high US$ 69.3 trillion. The United States, China and Japan alone account for more than half of global debt now. IMF has also found that, since 1950, the private debt has skyrocketed and rose by more than three times. Overall, for 2017, IMF has classified 190 global economies into three categories – Advanced, emerging market and low-income developing – depending upon those economies’ debt profiles. Overall, there was a decline in public debt and marginal increase in public debt in advanced economies. Similarly, emerging market economies continued to borrow money from the public and private sectors. Finally, low-income developing countries saw a rise in public debt.

STATUS OF GOVERNMENT DEBT (South Asia, Southeast Asia and China)

Our analysis, using the recent IMF data, shows an overall a healthy status of economies in South Asia, Southeast Asia and China.

In South Asia, Afghanistan – though had a very high-risk level of government debt to GDP ratio in 2005 – has improved a lot and continues to remain the healthiest economy in terms of debt to GDP ratio in recent years. Nepal, on the other had – after having low-risk debt to GDP ratio for three subsequent years between 2015 and 2017, has entered into a moderate-risk level since 2018. The debt to GDP ratio is on the rise since then and the projected figure for 2024 also shows a substantial jump in the ratio. Similarly, Bhutan (one of the two South Asian land-locked nations) is in the very high-risk level of the debt to GDP ratio as the economy’s ratio has been above 100 percent since 2016. However, the projected figure for 2024 shows Bhutan coming down to high-risk level. While Bangladesh has been in moderate-risk level over years India and Sri Lanka, on the other hand, still remain in the lower quantile of high-risk level. Maldives and Pakistan, on the other hand, have remained in moderate-risk levels for long but these economies have entered into high-risk levels since 2018 and 2016 respectively.

Across Southeast Asia, Brunei Darussalam remains the healthiest economy in terms of debt to GDP ratio while Singapore stands in the very high-risk level. Rest of the economies in this part of the world remains in moderate-risk zone. Myanmar, once possessed very high-risk level of debt to GDP ratio in 2005, has improved a lot in terms of handling government debt and the current ratio lies below 40 percent.

In China, the Mainland China used to have low-risk level of debt to GDP ratio earlier. In 2005, the ratio was only 26.1 percent. However, after the Global Financial crisis, the ratio is on the rise. China Mainland, after remaining in the moderate-risk levels for almost one decade, has now entered into the high-risk level. Hong Kong SAR, however, possess very healthy debt to GDP ratio, which now stands at 0 percent. In the case of Taiwan, the economy continues to have a moderate-risk level of debt to GDP ratio and the projections for year 2024 indicate the economy would bounce back to a healthy ratio after 5 years.

In concluding remarks, we acknowledge that analysis of single component of these economies’ economic health does not represent complete pictures of these countries economic status. Thus, in coming days, we will be working on other key aspects of public finance issues from these countries to make our analysis more inclusive.