The national debt of Pakistan (Urdu: قومی قرضہ جاتِ پاکستان), or simply Pakistani debt, is the total public debt, or unpaid borrowed funds carried by the Government of Pakistan, which includes measurement as the face value of the currently outstanding treasury bills (T-bills) that have been issued by the federal government.
Pakistan is accumulating Rs14 billion in loans daily to meet its expenses, resulting in a significant rise in both its domestic and external debt, which now stands at $280 billion.
The terms 'budget deficit' and 'national surplus' usually refer to the federal government budget balance from year to year, not the cumulative amount of debt. A deficit year increases the debt, while a surplus year decreases the debt as more money is received than spent.
According to data compiled from reputable sources such as the World Bank, UNICEF, Economic Survey, International Diabetes Federation, UNAID, and SBP, Pakistan has secured the top spot among the top 10 countries with the highest external debt, amounting to $127 billion. This debt places Pakistan among the 73 states eligible for the World Bank's Debt Service Suspension Initiative.
The country is now faced with the formidable challenge of addressing several pressing issues. These include tackling the escalating national debt, managing the inefficient use of national resources, dealing with a rapidly growing population, combating the rise in unemployment rates, and addressing the inadequacy of health and education facilities.
The economy is also being significantly affected by the energy crisis and the negative impact of public sector enterprises. Particularly concerning is Pakistan's circular debt, which is estimated to range from Rs1200 to 2500 billion, an amount nearly equivalent to its annual budget. These issues collectively pose considerable hurdles for Pakistan's economic stability and development.
In 2008 when Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had won the election, Pakistan's debt was Rs. 6,435 billion which increased by 135% in the next five years of PPP tenure, and became Rs. 15,096 billion in 2013. Majority of this increase in debt was in domestic debt in which external debt of Pakistan increased by 22 percent, from US$42.8 billion in 2008 to US$52.4 billion in 2013. PPP government was dependent on domestic and International lending to meet the needs of the government expenditures. Total debt increased to 64 percent of the GDP but external debt as a percentage of GDP decreased from 29.5 percent to 23.4 percent.
After 2013 Pakistani general election, Nawaz Sharif came to power. During their rule of five years, Pakistan's external debt increased from US$52.4 billion to US$75.3 billion, an increase of 226.80 percent, mainly due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, for which loans were taken from China and all contracts awarded only to Chinese companies, the consequent high imports from China (not offset by any significant exports to China), and also Sukuk bonds.
After 2018 Pakistani general election, Imran Khan came to power. During his rule of 3 years still today Pakistani external debt increased from US$75.3 billion to US$110.6 billion an increase of 35.3 billion USD.
According to a report by the International Monetary Fund, Pakistani owes China 30% of its $100 billion foreign debt. China has now become the biggest bilateral lender to Pakistan, surpassing all other creditors.
As of June 2023, Total Public Debt and Liabilities of Pakistan is estimated to be about Rs. 2.978 trillion/US$1.0 billion which is 0.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) of Pakistan. About Rs. 24.309 trillion is owed by the government to domestic creditors, and about Rs. 0.3 trillion is owed by Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs).
Similarly, as of October 2021, external Debt of Pakistan is now around US$121.75 billion. Pakistan owes US$0.3 billion to Paris Club, US$33.1 billion to multilateral donors, US$7.4 billion to International Monetary Fund, and US$12 billion to international bonds such as Eurobond, and Sukuk. About 15% of the external debt which is estimated around US$17.1 billion (6.15% of GDP) is owed to China due to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Pakistan is facing a "huge external financing gap" of $4 billion, with China, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE expected to provide additional support. The IMF is seeking to fund its program and secure $7 billion for debt repayment, current account deficit financing, and increasing foreign exchange reserves. The talks between Pakistan and the IMF were delayed due to concerns over the credibility of the government's assurances and the reliability of foreign loans. Despite some agreement on reform actions and measures, there are still outstanding issues and the IMF has expressed concerns about the government's ability to fulfill past commitments.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of Pakistan asked the International Monetary Fund to soften the conditions of its bailout package to help the country protect flood victims from rising prices.
IMF urged Pakistan to hike its general sales tax rate to at least 18% in an effort to bolster revenue. The country's debt servicing costs are expected to surge to a high of Rs5.2 trillion in the current fiscal year. The IMF demand was made as the government shared its revised macroeconomic projections showing inflation rising to 29% and economic growth rate slowing to 1.5%, which will lead to higher unemployment and poverty in the country  and debt-driven rising prices, food insecurity, and a growing debt burden add to Pakistan's other challenges and no doubt Inflation is running above 38 percent annually. As Pakistan's rupee experiences a significant depreciation and its foreign exchange reserves dwindle, the nation is facing challenges in importing crucial goods such as food, which has even resulted in tragic stampedes at distribution centers. This has raised concerns within Pakistan about the country's ability to meet its debt obligations.
Pakistan boasts one of the world's highest debt-to-GDP ratios and has procured a substantial sum of funds from international financial institutions to fulfill its financial requirements. This borrowing pressure has diminished the nation's foreign exchange reserves and resulted in the devaluation of its currency.
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