Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fiscal irresponsibility 6: Poor countries' debts

So far I have written only the debts of rich countries in this "Fiscal irresponsibility" series. I am lucky to see the IMF-WB data today on public sector debt statistics. Data there refer only to several poor or emerging economies. Thirty two (32) countries were covered in that list, I took only the top 20 big debtor poorer countries.

The numbers below refer only to external debt by the central or national governments of these countries. Excluded here are debts by the monetary authorities, banks, and so on.

Brazil and China are notoriously indebted, both have combined public debts of around $2 trillion as of 3rd quarter of 2010. Eight countries have debts of more than $100 billion as of last year. The Philippines is at par with Bangladesh in size of debt.

The Philippines' central government external debt, in $ billion, were as follows: 2005 25.71; 2006 27.22;
2007 28.43; and 2008 29.63.
See BSP data on External Debt.

The purpose of governments' external borrowing is to augment local resources (taxes and fees collected, local borrowings) for whatever development programs they have. If those programs were productive and not just wasted or stolen, their economies' productivity should have increased, they can pay the past debts and they need not borrow more and more.

This is not happening in many countries, rich and poor alike. The debts keep rising. External borrowings only created a huge army of debt-happy and dependent politicians and bureaucrats in debtor countries, and an equivalent army of debt-pusher bureaucrats in foreign aid institutions and banks.

Fiscal irresponsibility, of living beyond their means year in and year out, is one hallmark of most governments, the BIG ones especially.

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