In last few years, we are hearing a lot about foreign investments in our Country. From Manufacturing to Infrastructure, from Government to Non-government sectors, all the sectors are at some point taking loans from different foreign entities. As charted below, it can be seen that the debt figures are growing at an average rate of 7.30% year on year.
Any government that comes to power always announces any form of such investment by some external agency proudly, with a lot of pomp and show. With the figure currently standing at around 19% of our Gross Development Product, it becomes important to understand, drill down and see if it will have positive or negative impact on us.
Most of the loans taken by India are either for Government Loans or Non-government Loans. Most of these loans are in form of Commercial Borrowings, Non- Resident Indian Deposits, International Monetary Fund Loans, Bilateral or Multilateral borrowings, etc.
Most of the Non-government borrowings are by private corporate entities who avail it for their business expansion. However, the case with Government borrowing is different, as it is required for various social & economic development projects which have very low revenue generation capabilities. As a result, viability of the borrowings, the repayment of the debt and entity from which the loan is taken becomes a critical issue, which if not taken care may have adverse effects.
Now coming to the Government loans, most of the loans in our country is from World Bank, Asian Development, European Institutes or Japanese Institutes. Globally even China is known to be major investor. A basic in-depth analysis of their economic status, term-loan policies and central bank rates reveals the purpose of giving loans. While World Bank & Asian Development Bank were created to help poor countries reduce poverty, foster economic growth and cooperation, the same doesn’t seem to be the case with other Institutions from Japan, Europe or China as they claim. Their purpose of giving loans seems to be something else as seen from the given chart trends.
As it can be seen in European nations, Japan or US, the Long term borrowing rates seen to be reducing. If the same is rate assumed and interpolated for next decade, it can be easily said to go negative. Which means that banks will start charging interest even for the deposits, which is not good for any growing economy. Hence these countries are giving long-term loans at interest rates ranging from 0.1% to 2.5% as it will ensure their money value at least remains static and they continue to grow, even if marginally. So giving such loans are their need as well.
Even the trends of central bank rate strengthen the fact that for most of the European nations and Japan, giving infrastructure loans are their need. This serves the interest of both the entities involved i.e the institution giving the loan and the entity receiving it. However the interest rates of loans extended by China, varying from 2% to 4% (link 1, link 2), seems different as it is well below their own Central bank rate. In this case, mutual interest doesn’t seem to be the prime motive. This when seen in line with Tajikistan (ceding land china on account of non-repayment), Sri Lanka (Mattala Rajpakasa International Airport being declared world’s emptiest airport and unable to generate revenue) and Cambodia (almost 80% of its total debt owed to China) cases rings the bell. It seems more of like a debt trap than a development loan.
The risk any term loan carries is the risk on account of Forex rate. Most of the term loans availed by the borrowers are either in Dollars, Euros or other global currencies and not in their local currencies. Which means due to varying exchange rates, an additional risk on account of Exchange rate becomes a major factor. The extent of impact may even overshadow the lower interest rates by the lender and needs to be checked on timely basis.
Keeping this mind, whenever any government announces any loan with pomp and show, one should study the different aspects and conditions as mentioned and then make any pronouncement regarding the loan/investment availed as growth is good only if sustainable. Not doing so may expose to the risk of falling into the unending debt trap as seen in many cases.