Ashni Singh challenges external debt figure attributed to Finance Minister

Former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh today challenged the US$1.6b external debt figure which Finance Minister Winston Jordan was reported to have made to the National Assembly on Friday.

A letter to Stabroek News by Singh follows.

Dr Ashni Singh
Dr Ashni Singh

Dear Editor,

On Guyana’s External Debt

My avocations since demitting ministerial office no longer permit me to exert close scrutiny of all that is said in the theatre of Guyanese politics and, even moreso, to offer detailed responses thereto. It would be remiss of me, however, to let a particularly glaring recent example of either misreporting or misinformation go unremarked upon.

The Guyana Chronicle of yesterday’s date reported that Minister of Finance Winston Jordan informed the National Assembly on Friday that Guyana’s “external loan debt stock stands at US$1.6B and its domestic loan is appreciating significantly” (sic). The story was carried as the first lead article on page 1, with a headline that repeated the statement purportedly made on Guyana’s external debt, impossible to escape notice by even a cursory glance.

Knowing the information reportedly provided by the Minister to be inaccurate, I allowed a day to elapse, anticipating his correction in the event the newspaper misquoted him. My quick perusal of today’s newspapers has thus far rendered no evidence of any such correction having been issued. Instead, a second newspaper has now reported him as having made the same statement with the said amount of US$1.6 billion repeated.

I, therefore, wish to draw attention to the following.

Firstly, Appendix VI to the national Budget Speech for 2014 reported that Guyana’s external debt stock stood at US$1.247 billion at the end of December 2013, and provided a detailed disaggregation by creditor. Secondly, Appendix F1 to the Mid-Year Report for 2014 reported that the external debt stock stood at US$1.227 billion at the end of June 2014, and provided a similar level of disaggregation. Thirdly, Table 7-III of the Statistical Annexe to the Bank of Guyana Annual Report for 2014 reported that Guyana’s stock of external public debt amounted to US$1.217 billion at the end of December 2014, disaggregated by creditor type.

All three of the aforementioned documents have been freely available in the public domain since their respective issuance, including on the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Guyana websites, where they could still be sourced when I last checked earlier today.

With the kind courtesy of your pages, please permit me now to respectfully invite the Minister to make publicly available disaggregated details on the US$1.6 billion that he reported to the National Assembly last Friday as Guyana’s external debt stock. Alternatively, he might wish to consider issuing an appropriate correction, including in the National Assembly where his statement was originally made. He might also wish to consider examining more closely the accuracy of other aspects of what he is reported to have said in the same article and address them similarly.

Yours sincerely,

Ashni Singh

Around the Web