Posted: Friday, March 26, 2021. 5:24 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Four billion, two hundred and eighteen million, eight hundred and eighty-nine thousand dollars ($4,218,889,000), give or take a few cents.
That astronomical figure is the sum of Belize’s national debt as of the end of January, 2021, according to figures from the Central Bank of Belize.
When last we did these calculations, we estimated that the 398,000 Belizeans living here in June of 2018 would have had to pay nearly $30,000 in taxes from a typical family of four. That figure is now $10,610 for a total of $42,440 per family, whether we contributed to it or not.
The sources of external debt remain much the same. By far the largest contributor is the Superbond, now estimated at $1,126.9 million in interest and principal payments. Next is the Petrocaribe initiative sponsored by Venezuela at $476 million, the Republic of China (Taiwan) at $318 million and the Kuwait Fund at $35 million.
The above are bilateral credits; multilateral creditors include the European Investment Bank (EIB) ($6.3 million); the World Bank ($66.4 million); the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) ($344 million) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) ($288 million).
Government paid out $162.36 million in debt service for external debt, down about $19 million from 2019, and has paid out $22 million more so far in January.
Domestically, Government owes $1.323 billion in debt, the majority of which are in Treasury Bonds and Treasury Notes. These figures rose in 2020 due to the borrowing for COVID-19 relief projects such as the Unemployment Relief Program, Food Assistance Program, Food Pantry and so on.
The Central Bank does not list monies owed for land acquisitions, liabilities tied up in arbitration claims, particularly those related to Lord Michael Ashcroft; and monies owed by state and municipal actors and statutory bodies (Belize Telemedia Limited, Belize Water Services Limited, various city and town councils, and the Belize Airport Authority among others).
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recently concluded Article Four consultation with Belize advised the government to work toward reducing the debt to GDP ratio, currently above 130 percent, to 60 percent within ten years and pass an all-encompassing fiscal responsibility law to govern fiscal rules.
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