Posted: Friday, March 10, 2023. 3:00 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: As of the end of 2022, national public debt stood at $4.031 billion, comprised of $2.716 billion owed to external lenders or 67 cents of every dollar, while the remainder, 33 cents on the dollar or $1.315 billion is owed internally.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Briceño said Belize paid out $112 million in interest and $97.5 million in principal payments for a total of $205.5 million, or eight cents of every dollar of revenue and grants.
But after years of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) consistently rating Belize’s debt path as “unsustainable”, it marks “a special sense of achievement”, the P.M. said, to have the Fund applaud the reduction of debt-to-GDP ratio to 64.1 percent from 133 percent since the start of his administration, following a revising of the figures.
So, what did the Government get right? In the IMF’s words: “The rebasing of national accounts, sizable fiscal consolidation, the debt-for-marine-protection swap, strong GDP growth, expenditure containment including a temporary ten percent cut to public sector wages and the suspension of wage increments during fiscal years 2021 to 2023, a strong recovery of revenue and a material discount of the debt owed to Venezuela under PetroCaribe.”
Contrast the rise in public debt under the previous administration of $2 billion in 13 years, Briceño said, with the reduction of $1 billion in debt due to the swap out of the Superbond for the Blue Bond and the Venezuela discount. And Belize is on track to continue reducing the debt if we continue on our current track – and, Briceño said, if the current government continues in power.
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