Vietnam’s 2016-20 public debt rises to $110bn

The government-borrowed loans accounted for 80.8 percent of the sum

A cartoon describes a man, representing private companies, dragging a fat boss, representing state-owned businesses, while he is sitting on a bag of official development assistance banknotes.

Vietnam’s public debt rose to VND2,480 trillion (US$110 billion) as of the end of last year, according to data from the Ministry of Finance.

The government-borrowed loans accounted for 80.8 percent of the sum, whereas the respective proportions of government-backed debts and local administration-borrowed debts were 17.8 percent and 1.4 percent.

The $110 billion national debt equaled to 62.2 percent of the country’s GDP, getting closer to the limit of 65 percent. In the meantime, the government debt already breached the limit of 50 percent GDP, standing at 50.3 percent.

However, the government has been appropriately followed a plan to reduce the amount of foreign loans during the 2011-15 period, according to the debt management and foreign finance agency under the Ministry of Finance.

Specifically, while the loans the government borrowed from domestic sources rose from 39 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2015, the foreign debts dropped to 43 percent from 61 percent in the same five-year span, Vo Huu Hien, deputy head of the agency, said.

“This is in line with the government’s strategy to manage public and foreign debt in the 2011-20 period,” he said.

Vietnam’s public debt rose by 12.2 percent of GDP during the 2011-15 period, coming from 50 percent of GDP in 2011 to 62.2 percent in 2015, compared to the modest 9 percent growth in the 2006-10 period.

Hien attributed the rapid growth to the pressure to mobilize capital for Vietnam’s eco-social development plans.

In March the finance ministry submitted a national debt repaying plan for the 2016-20 period to the government, which later reported it the lawmaking National Assembly. The plan consists of several specific measures to better manage and use the public debts, Hien said.

However, the official admitted that it is impossible for Vietnam’s national debt to be reduced overnight.

In the latest development, the state budget agency under the finance ministry is collecting feedback on a draft plan on “the state coffers reform and public debt management to ensure a safe and sustainable financial sector.”

The plan also reveals that the government plans to borrow some VND2,260 trillion ($100.89 billion), or 8.13 percent of GDP, in the 2016-20 period.

This means an average annual loan of VND450 trillion ($20.09 billion) a year. The biggest debt is set for borrowing in 2020, VND540 trillion ($24.11 billion), which the state budget agency admitted is “too high and impossible for management.”

According to the draft plan, the debt repaying responsibility of the government in the next five years is VND2,000 trillion ($89.29 billion), or 6.44 percent of GDP.

The ceiling for the public debt is retained at 65 percent of GDP for the 2016-20 period, but the cap for the government-borrowed loans is raised to 55 percent from the current 50 percent.

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