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Debt hits Sh5.4trn as Treasury takes Sh2bn loans daily

Tuesday April 2 2019

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Treasury's director of budget Geoffrey Mwau at a past event. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CHARLES MWANIKI
By CHARLES MWANIKI
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The Treasury borrowed an average of Sh2.1 billion every day, racking up Sh126.4 billion in loans between January and February and raising Kenya’s total debt load to Sh5.4 trillion.

Latest debt data published by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows that domestic debt rose by Sh142.6 billion to Sh2.692 trillion in the period, while external debt contracted by Sh22 billion to Sh2.707 trillion.

The government has upped its borrowing through Treasury bonds and bills this year, taking advantage of high demand from investors.

BORROWING

The accelerated borrowing from the domestic market—mainly banks— is however bad news for the private sector, which has been struggling to secure loans from the lenders.

In the 12-months to February, credit to the private sector grew by 3.4 percent, still far below the 12 to 15 percent considered to be ideal for powering strong economic growth. Commercial banks’ holdings of government debt went up by 13 percent in the same period, to Sh1.46 trillion.

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Heavy borrowing by the Jubilee administration has seen the threshold of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) cross well over the 50 percent mark, raising concerns over ability to repay the loans.

The Treasury’s appetite for more debt from domestic lenders is likely to continue due to lower-than-targeted revenue performance by the Kenya Revenue Authority.

The target for domestic borrowing for the current fiscal year stands at Sh310 billion, while external creditors are expected to plug in Sh321.5 billion in order to fill the Sh635 billion fiscal deficit.

By the end of February, the government had borrowed 66 percent of the domestic target from the market.

In the first quarter of the year, Treasury bill subscriptions averaged 147 percent.

Even with the rejection of expensive bids by CBK, the stock of outstanding securities rose by Sh67.5 billion in the first two months of 2019.

Treasury bonds have also become a favourite for investors. In January and February, the Treasury sought a total of Sh102 billion in bond auctions (including one tap sale), receiving total bids of Sh247 billion and accepting Sh115.3 billion.

SECURITIES

The Treasury, however, took advantage of the high inflows from the securities market to cut its outstanding overdraft at CBK by Sh26 billion to Sh19.7 billion in the period.

Maturing securities are expected to keep the market liquid, which should make it easier for the Treasury to achieve its borrowing target.

External borrowing has been harder for the government, which has in the past few months said it is being held back by high interest demands especially for commercial debt.

The Treasury is yet to issue the expected Eurobond well into the second half of the fiscal year, and is instead mulling taking up a syndicated loan to roll over maturing foreign debt.

The medium term debt strategy report released by the Treasury in February revealed concerns over the sustainability of the external debt load.

The proposal is to cap external deficit financing at 38 percent, while raising domestic borrowing to 62 percent.