External debt increases almost 3% to $559 billion at March-end

Private sector debt rises 4.2% to $457.7 bn, four times sovereign debt of $100.9 bn

India’s total external debt increased by 2.8% to $558.5 billion at the end of March mainly on account of a rise in commercial borrowings, a Finance Ministry report showed. External debt was $543 billion a year earlier.

The ratio of foreign currency reserves to external debt stood at 85.5% as at end-March, compared to 76% in 2019 March.

External debt as a ratio to GDP rose marginally to 20.6%, from 19.8 %, ‘India’s External Debt: A Status Report: 2019-2020’ showed.

Sovereign debt shrank 3% to $100.9 billion, the ministry said, adding, this decrease was primarily due to a fall in FII investment in G-Secs — the second-largest constituent — by 23.3% to $21.6 billion, from $28.3 billion in 2019.

Loans from multilateral and bilateral sources under external assistance — the largest constituent of sovereign debt — grew 4.9% to $87.2 billion. Non-sovereign debt, on the other hand, rose 4.2% to $457.7 billion mainly due to an increase in commercial borrowings — the largest constituent — by 6.7% to $220.3 billion.

Outstanding NRI deposits — the second-largest constituent — at $130.6 billion was almost equal to the level a year earlier.

Non-financial corporations accounted for 42% of total debt.

Valuation gains

Noting that the U.S. dollar is the predominant currency for denomination of India’s external debt with a share of 53.7%, it said, the dollar’s appreciation as on March 31 resulted in a valuation gain of $16.6 billion.

Excluding valuation gains, increase in external debt would have been $32 billion.

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