• Real debt stock hits N19tr

Nigeria will spend an equivalent of its 2016 budget to service debts as its currency, the naira, continues to lose value against the United States dollar.

Devaluation has put the real value of the country’s debt stock at around N18.9 trillion, when considered at the official rate of N307.79 per dollar, according to figures from the Debt Management Office.

The additional naira stock (per dollar) that would be needed to service existing debt will cause the country to lose about N6.33 trillion, a near-equivalent of the 2016 budget, when compared to N12.6 trillion at N197 per dollar as at December 31, 2015. It is also a disincentive for future external borrowing despite a positive debt-to-GDP ratio.

“Hiding under the mantra of low debt-to-Gross Domestic Product is deceitful,” a public sector financial analyst, who asked not to be named, told The Guardian in Lagos at the weekend. “The economy is in recession and cannot churn out those activities anymore.
“If we compare our debt service bill without revenue earnings ratio, it is not sustainable and that is where foreign investors will be looking at to price our international bonds,” the public sector analyst said.

“With more than 21 per cent of the entire budget dedicated to debt service and more than 33 per cent of the total budget being in deficit, the budget performance is now made worse with near-non-activities called recession. The reality is daunting,” the source said.

The additional N6.33 trillion required to pay off Nigeria’s external debt represents 20.58 per cent, a one-fifth of its estimated $296 billion, or N91 trillion GDP.

The national debt stock consists of external obligations for both federal and state governments estimated at $11.3 billion (about N3.5 trillion); domestic obligations of $37.5 billion (about N11.5 trillion) and $12.7 billion (about N3.9 trillion) for federal and states respectively.

The devaluation was necessitated by the plummeted foreign exchange earnings, which created huge unmet demand due to the shortage of dollar and naturally erased the value of the local currency through speculations.

The debt report released by the Debt Management Office came two weeks behind schedule and put the debt stock by June 30, 2016 at $61.45 billion. The report stressed that the figure was higher in naira value than the $71.66 billion posted on March 31, 2016.

The amount, also at current official rate of N307.93 per dollar is higher than the estimated $65.43 billion debt worth N12.6 trillion as at December 31, 2015, at N197/$.

With a planned N1.8 trillion borrowing to fund the N2.2 trillion deficit in 2016 budget, from a mix of dollar-denominated and local debts, the country’s obligations and associated service bill will rise to new record high soon.

Already, the 2016 budget had a debt service provisioning in excess of N1.4 trillion, representing more than one-fifth of the entire budget plan.

The combined forces of devaluation and inflation, also took toll on the nation’s economic activities between December 2014 and 2015, eroding naira value, as well as pushing the sovereign debt stock to ₦12.12 trillion.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in November 2014, tactically devalued the naira and barely three months later, it devalued the local unit further to ₦199/$.

Besides the concern for eroded value of the currency, which requires more naira to offset the debt stock when denominated in dollar terms, a conservative estimate of about N920 billion was lost to the then exchange rate, occasioned by devaluation, even at lower debt stock of $63.5 billion (June 2015), compared to $67.7 billion in December 2014.

The national debt stock as at then showed that the Federal and States external obligations as at December 31, 2014, stood at ₦11.2 trillion ($67.7 billion), but moved to ₦12.06 trillion ($63.5 billion) three months later and ₦12.12 trillion ($63.8 billion) as at June 30, 2015.

Given the eroding value, Nigeria lost about ₦920 billion to devaluation, with respect to the debt stock, representing 8.2 per cent loss over the actual value in six months.

Also within the period under review, the inflationary trend has been on persistent upward movement. Although still in single digit, it moved from eight per cent to 9.4 per cent, trend, defying all liquidity tightening measures of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Still, the estimation of ₦920 billion loss appears to be conservative, given the fact that the domestic debts of sub-national governments (states) were denominated in dollar at the 2013 exchange rate of ₦155.7/$, which is not attainable now.

For example, if the states’ domestic debt profiles were denominated in current dollar exchange rate at ₦307.79, the total estimate would push losses far beyond N1 trillion mark.

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