2018 first quarter– as external debt repayments are growingPublic debt is on the rise, and it has been revealed that external debt repayments are also on the rise. This is according to the recently released Bank of Guyana Quarterly Report and Statistical Bulletin, which pegged the hike in public debt at US$19 million.Public debt is on the riseThe report divides this debt into external and domestic. External debt increased by 1.5 per cent from a December position of US$1.241 billion to US$1.265 billion.“The rise in the stock of external debt was on account of higher disbursements by multilateral creditors, specifically, IADB and CDB, for financing of social and economic infrastructural projects,” the report states.Domestic debt, on the other hand, increased to $89.5 million, from a December position of $88.8 million. Domestic debt, the report notes, increased because of a hike in treasury bills by 1.3 per cent.“(This) resulted mainly from a 1.5 per cent growth in the stock of the 364-day treasury bills during the first quarter,” the report adds.RepaymentRepayment of this external debt, according to the report, grew by some US$24.3 million to US$85.3 million. This is a rate of 59.1 per cent when compared to the corresponding period of 2017. This was not the case for domestic debt.“Domestic debt service payments fell by 14.6 per cent to $726 million, resulting mainly from a 23.2 per cent reduction in interest payments for treasury bills. Interest payments for the 182- and 364-day bills fell by 38.7 per cent and 17.6 per cent to G$36 million and G$358 million respectively.”“This position resulted mainly from competitive bidding, primarily amongst the commercial banks, compounded with lower interest yields during the review period,” the report outlines as a telling indicator.Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who was recently interviewed on the sidelines of Parliament, had said that Guyana’s public debt rate is actually nothing to worry about.Jordan had contended that as the economy grows, it could actually take on more debt.“You must stop looking at debt in absolute terms; debt must be looked at in relative terms. You look at debt to GDP (Gross Domestic Product), debt to revenue or something. As the economy grows, it can take on more debt. So it’s not a question of the absolute amount of the debt, it’s the relative amount,” Jordan told this newspaper.Pressed on exactly what the Government is doing to bring down the debt, Jordan would only allude to the international threshold of debt to GDP. The Finance Minister did not mention any steps Government was taking to mitigate the debt rate. A subsequent statement had however reinforced this point.The Public Debt Annual Report released by the Finance Ministry last year had highlighted that, since 2015, there has been a 4.1 per cent rise in Guyana’s indebtedness to creditors. The report details that Guyana’s total debt, inclusive of external and domestic, increased to $330 billion as at December 2016.The Ministry attributed this to disbursements from the Export-Import Bank of China towards the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project, as well as monies from multilateral creditors.A breakdown of the figures shows that total external debt amounted to $240 billion, a 72.6 per cent bite out of the total public debt. On the other hand, domestic debt stood at $90.6 billion, or 27.4 per cent of the total.“At the end of December 2016, multilateral creditors continued to be the predominant creditor category, accounting for 59.7 per cent of the external debt portfolio, a slight decrease from the 2015 position of 60.6 per cent. Bilateral lenders and commercial lenders represented 38.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the public external debt portfolio, respectively,” the Finance Ministry explained.“Although the nominal public debt increased, the total external public debt to GDP ratio declined from 36.1 per cent as at end December 2015 to 33.7 per cent as at end December 2016, as a result of GDP growth outstripping the rate of growth of public external debt stock,” the Ministry said, in justifying the increase.