Debt Accumulation and Its Implications for Growth and Poverty (The Presidential Address)

Author: A.R. Kemal
Publication Year : 2001

Rising levels of debt and debt servicing, falling rates of investment, declining growth rates of output and employment, and sharp increase in poverty sum up the disappointing performance of Pakistan’s economy over the last decade. By the end of the fiscal year 2001, external debt had increased to $30 billion, and the ratio of external debt and the present value of debt servicing stood at 64.0 and 80.0 percent of GDP respectively. Even though the ratio of debt servicing to export earnings and debt servicing to total foreign exchange earnings have declined because of debt rescheduling, still they were 37.4 and 23.3 percent, respectively, in 2000-01. Prior to debt rescheduling, the two ratios were 55.4 and 34.9 percent in 1997-98. The average growth rate of GDP has been less than 4 percent, with a declining trend, and unemployment rate has increased from less than 5 percent to 7.8 percent over the last decade. The real wages have fallen, and one-third of the population is unable to meet its nutritional requirements. While a number of factors including the inconsistency of the economic policies of successive governments, Structural Adjustment and Stabilisation Programmes of the IMF, and corruption have been responsible for this state of affairs, debt accumulation to alarming proportions is also a major cause of such performance.