With a total debt burden of N5.39 trillion as at the end of December 2019, the 36 states of the federation are no longer eligible to borrow from the capital market, a new report, has said.
The 2020 edition of the BudgIT’s annual state of states report titled “Fiscal Sustainability and Epidemic Preparedness Financing at the State Level,” stated that the debt burden of the 36 state governments (excluding the Federal Capital Territory) stood at N5.39 trillion in 2019.
The report added that the states are no longer qualified to borrow from the capital market as a result of the regulation put in place by Debt Management Office (DMO) to forestall debt crisis on sub-national public borrowings.
However, the data released by the DMO had indicated that Nigeria’s total debt stock as of December 2019 stood at N27.4 trillion.
This includes N21.7 trillion owed by the federal government and N5.6 trillion owed by the state governments.
But the Communications Associate of BudgIT, Ms.IyanuFatoba, told THISDAY yesterday that the difference between the DMO’s N5.6 trillion and the BudgIT’s figure of N5.39 trillion could be attributed to the foreign exchange rate differentials as at the time the reports were compiled.
The BudgIT Research Lead, Mr. Abel Akeni, who reviewed the report, said that in the light of this debt growth, all the state governments have reached the ceiling set for them by the DMO, which stipulated that state government’s total debt must not be more than 50 per cent of its last year’s total revenue.
“And in our analysis, we observed that all the 36 states have actually reached this particular ceiling. All of them now have debts that are larger than the 50 per cent of their last year’s total revenue. It is going to be a struggle if they will be allowed to access funds from the capital market in 2020,” Akeni said.
The annual report, which was unveiled yesterday in Lagos State, stated that state governments accumulated N3.34 trillion debts in five years from N2.05 trillion in 2014 to N5.39 trillion in 2019, representing 162.87 per cent increase during the period under review.
The report also said that Lagos State is the most exposed state to exchange rate volatility because of its foreign debts.
It noted that just by devaluing the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar from N305 in January to N380 in September, the Lagos State’s foreign debt obligations have ballooned.
The report also ranked Rivers State as number one in its 2020 States’ Fiscal Sustainability Index (FSI), and was followed closely by Anambra, Ogun and Lagos States while Bayelsa, Osun, Ekiti and Plateau States were ranked lowest in terms of sustainability index
The FSI was based on the ability of each state government to meet its recurrent obligations with its internally generated revenue (IGR) or total revenue, as well as the state’s ability to repay its debts considering its total revenue in a single year and the degree of the state’s investments in capital projects compared to its overhead costs and other recurrent expenditures.
The BudgIT’s Communications Lead, Mr.DamilolaOgundipe, said: “To achieve fiscal sustainability, states need to grow their IGRs as options for borrowing are reduced due to debt ceilings put in place by the federal government to prevent states from slipping into a debt crisis. Therefore, there has to be a shift from the culture of states’ overdependence on FAAC.”
The report stated that only 15 states in the country are in a good position to meet their recurrent expenditures and loan repayment obligations from their total revenues.