Malawi still borrowing too much domestically: ‘July-September debt to hit K403bln’

Malawi is still borrowing too much domestically as figures released by the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) indicate that by the end of the first quarter of the 2020/2021 fiscal year government will borrow K403 billion.

A socio-economic commentator, Jackson Msiska, has since cautioned government to “tame its insatiable appetite for domestic borrowing.”

Msiska said the phenomenon is “costly and unsustainable in the long run.”

Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu presenting national budget in Parliament on Friday .-Photo by Govati Nyirenda, Mana

Over the years, various other commentators have argued that rising public debt remains a major concern as it continues crowding out the private sector and pushing an obligation to service the loan plus interest to future generations.

But Heritage Partners Managing Consultant, Cosmas Chigwe, said high borrowing would be tamed in the country if expenditures were aligned to available resources.

“If we keep borrowing as a solution to short term problems, in the long term the country will get poorer because we will have to pay a lot in interests and, by the end of the day, it does not mean solving any problem because we are just postponing the problem,” Chigwe is quoted as saying in the local press.

Nyasa Times has learnt that the K403 billion which will have been borrowed by the end of the first three months is about 71 percent of the K565.4 billion the government projected to borrow domestically during the nine-month long financial year.

RBM’s action issuance calendar for July to September indicates that Treasury is expected to borrow K191 billion through Treasury bills and K211 billion through Treasury notes.

According to issuance calendar, the financial plan has yet another yearning fiscal deficit of K811.7 billion, representing 8.8 percent of gross domestic Product (GDP).

“Of the amount, K565.4 billion, or 6.1 percent of GDP, is projected to be funded through domestic borrowing,” it says.

During his 2020/2021 budget presentation, finance minister Felix Mlusu projected there would be deficits in the budget on “account of subdued revenue performance, expenses in response to the Covid pandemic and the significantly high proportion of mandatory expenses, among other factors.”

Over the years, almost all national budgets have been faced with myriad challenges including weak fiscal environment, leading to wide deficit, largely characterized by expenditure overruns and revenue shortfalls.

Traditionally, the government borrows for consumption, except in rare instances, where the funds are meant for long term development projects.

Recently, for instance, the Treasury issued a K20 billion long-term bond-as part of the K1 trillion development bond, which was auctioned on August 17 2021.

In its recent Malawi Economic Monitor titled ‘From Crisis Response to a Strong Recovery’ issued last month, the World Bank warned that Malawi remains at a high overall risk of debt distress, which could further undermine fiscal sustainability and frustrate strides towards economic recovery.

The Britton Woods institution attributed this to the increased incurrence of high-cost domestic debt.

“The risk associated with external debt is moderate, with some space to absorb shocks,” the report said.

Malawi’s debt ratio to GDP has more than doubled since 2011.

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