Economy 2 MIN READ

PH external debt service up 160% as of end-May

September 5, 2023By BusinessWorld

The Philippines debt service burden on its external debt more than doubled as of end-May amid high global interest rates.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed the Philippines’ debt service burden on its external debt increased by 160% to USD 6.5 billion from USD 2.5 billion a year ago. 

The debt service burden refers to the amount of money a country needs to pay back to its foreign creditors. It includes both the principal and interest payments on its external debt. 

BSP data showed principal payments climbed by 164.3% to USD 3.7 billion from USD 1.4 billion a year ago.

Interest payments jumped by 145% to USD 2.7 billion in the first five months of the year from USD 1.1 billion a year earlier.

Principal external debt service is mostly fixed medium- to long-term credits, while interest payments are on fixed and revolving short-term credits of banks and nonbanks.

“Increased bond issuance by the National Government, which is part of the borrowing program, may have pushed up the principal payments to USD 3.7 billion,” ING Bank N.V. Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said in an e-mail.

He said the recent spike in global interest rates is the likely reason behind the 145% increase in interest payments.

Central banks across the world have tightened monetary policy to curb inflation.

“Higher external debt service burden may be attributed to higher prices/inflation that increased government expenditures, increased budget deficits and foreign borrowings,” Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said, adding that the weaker peso could also be a factor.

Headline inflation eased to 6.1% in May from 6.6% in April and brought the five-month average to 7.5%. May also marked the 14th straight month inflation breached the BSP’s 2-4% target.

Based on the latest central bank data, the Philippines’ outstanding external debt rose by 8.25% to USD 118.8 billion as of end-March from the USD 109.75-billion level a year earlier.

External debt refers to all types of borrowings by Philippine residents from nonresidents, following the residency criterion for international statistics.

The external debt as of end-March was equivalent to 29% of gross domestic product, higher than 27.5% from end-December and end-March 2022.

The debt service ratio also increased to 12.9% as of end-March from 4% a year ago. — KBT

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