External Debt Management

EXTERNAL DEBT (or foreign debt) is that part of the total debt in a country that is owed to creditors outside the country. The debtors can be the government, corporations or private households. The debt includes money owed to private commercial banks, other governments, or international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

IMF defines it as "Gross external debt, at any given time, is the outstanding amount of those actual current, and not contingent, liabilities that require payment(s) of principal and/or interest by the debtor at some point(s) in the future and that are owed to nonresidents by residents of an economy."

In this definition, IMF defines the key elements as follows:

(a) Outstanding and Actual Current Liabilities: For this purpose, the decisive consideration is whether a creditor owns a claim on the debtor. Here debt liabilities include arrears of both principal and interest.

(b) Principal and Interest: When this cost is paid periodically, as commonly occurs, it is known as an interest payment. All other payments of economic value by the debtor to the creditor that reduce the principal amount outstanding are known as principal payments. However, the definition of external debt does not distinguish between whether the payments that are required are principal or interest, or both. Also, the definition does not specify that the timing of the future payments of principal and/or interest need be known for a liability to be classified as debt.

(c) Residence: To qualify as external debt, the debt liabilities must be owed by a resident to a nonresident. Residence is determined by where the debtor and creditor have their centers of economic interest - typically, where they are ordinarily located - and not by their nationality.

d) Current and Not Contingent: Contingent liabilities are not included in the definition of external debt. These are defined as arrangements under which one or more conditions must be fulfilled before a financial transaction takes place. However, from the viewpoint of understanding vulnerability, there is analytical interest in the potential impact of contingent liabilities on an economy and on particular institutional sectors, such as government.

Generally external debt is classified into four heads i.e.

(1) public and publicly guaranteed debt, (2) private non-guaranteed credits, (3) central bank deposits, and (4) loans due to the IMF. However the exact treatment varies from country to country. For example, while Egypt maintains this four head classification, in India it is classified in seven heads i.e. (a) multilateral, (b) bilateral, (c) IMF loans, (d) Trade Credit, (e) Commercial Borrowings, (f) NRI Deposits, and (g) Rupee Debt.

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