Nigeria’s N121.6trn Debt Exceeds 50% GDP

PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PWC) has raised the alarm that Nigeria’s public debt hit N121.67 trillion in the first quarter of 2024, saying the country’s fiscal deficit is above the 3 per cent threshold of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA).

PWC said the debt issuance without a commensurate rise in revenue-generating investments may hurt private investors.

The professional services firm stated this in its outlook titled, ‘Nigerian Economic Outlook, June 2024’.

According to the report, “The continuous rise in debt from issuances of debt instruments without a commensurate rise in revenue-generating investments may crowd out private investment and worsen the country’s debt profile in the long-term.”

Nigeria’s public debt grew by 144.1 per cent to N121.67 trillion in Q1 2024 from N49.85trn in Q1 2023 due to naira devaluation, additional debts and the securitisation of ways and means.

According to PWC, N4.9 trillion of the N7 trillion approved for the securitisation of ways and means as well as N4.5 trillion debt to fund the 2024 budget deficit was raised by the DMO as of May 2024.

PWC said, “The fiscal deficit to GDP of 6.1 per cent recorded in 2023 remains above the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) threshold of 3 per cent consequently leading to a high debt profile.

“Fiscal sustainability concerns may remain slightly elevated, given debt servicing costs (89 per cent of the budgeted fiscal deficit is to be financed by new borrowings).”

Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio crosses 50% for the first time

Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio crossed 50 per cent for the first-time last week after the Debt Management Office published the country’s latest public debt figures.

According to the DMO, Nigeria now has a public debt portfolio of N121 trillion, consisting of domestic debt of N65.6 trillion and a foreign debt portfolio of $42.1 billion (which converts to N56 trillion when converted to naira).

As of December 2023, Nigeria’s total gross domestic product (GDP) was N229.9 trillion in nominal terms, though it grew by only 2.74% in real terms. This suggests that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is now above 50% for the first time.

Based on the 2023 GDP figure of N229.9 trillion, Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 52.9%, marking the first time the country has reached such a high debt-to-GDP figure.

Nigeria has often viewed its ‘low’ debt-to-GDP ratio as a sign of the country’s economic resilience, suggesting there was more room to expand its borrowing capacity.

Reacting to the development, Economist and Senior Partner at SPM Professionals, Paul Alaje, said the government inherited a poor economy, adding that more creative ways should be adopted on raising more revenue.

“Nigeria can raise up to N40 trillion for the federal government and something close within the state government. But the question is, are we ready to generate this money. This does not mean we are raising taxes or making life relatively inconvenient for people to live,” Alaje said.

-By Sunday Michael Ogwu

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