Colombia’s foreign debt in March rose in absolute terms as a percentage
of the country’s gross domestic product as the government and private
companies borrowed more abroad.
The central bank said total foreign debt as a percentage of GDP rose to 22.3% in March from 18.6% a year earlier.
In absolute terms, foreign debt owed by the government and private
companies was $46.82 billion, up from $45.18 billion a year earlier.
The Colombian economy grew 2.5% in 2008, according to the country’s
statistics department. In the first quarter of the year, the economy
contracted 0.6% on top of a contraction of 0.7% in the fourth quarter
of last year.
The government’s total foreign debt rose to $30.5 billion, or the
equivalent to 14.5% of GDP, up from $29.35 billion in March 2008, or
12.1% of GDP, following a $1 billion bond sale in January.
Cesar Tovar, head of research at local brokerage Nacional de
Valores, said the government’s debt will rise in the coming months
because of another $1 billion bond sale carried out in April, even
though the money collected from the April bond sale will be used to
finance the 2010 budget.
Besides the $1 billion in bonds, the government plans to borrow
$2.65 billion from multilateral lenders, such as the World Bank and the
Inter-American Development Bank this year to plug its widening 2009
budget deficit, which is expected to reach the equivalent of 2.4% of
gross domestic product.
Overseas debt held by Colombia’s private sector was also higher in
March, at $16.33 billion, or the equivalent to 7.8% of GDP, from $15.83
billion, or the equivalent to 6.5%, in the third month of last year.
The central bank said that a large chunk of the country’s foreign
debt, $42.03 billion, bore long-term maturity, while the remaining
$4.78 billion carries a short-term maturity. (Dow Jones)