The Philippines has the lowest gross external debt position among the ASEAN-5 countries, according to World Bank data. The country posted a 20.11% external debt-to-GNI ratio as of 2019. Thailand is closest behind at 34.07%, followed by Indonesia at 36.85%, while Malaysia registered 64.59%. Vietnam did not have available data for 2019 but recorded a 47.86% external debt ratio in 2018. (Table 1)
The Philippines has the lowest gross external debt position among the ASEAN-5 countries, according to World Bank data. – World Bank
As a percent of Exports of Goods and Services and Primary Income, the Philippines’ external debt ratio dropped to 54.4% in the first quarter of 2020 from 54.8% in the same period last year. The decline is due primarily to public sector debt which dropped from US$40.13B to US$38.3B. (Table 2) Compared with two decades ago, when the country was recovering from the Asian financial crisis, the external debt ratio in 2020 was significantly lower at 51.2% of the debt-exports ratio in 2000.
In the face of a slowing global economy and dampening of investment activities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, countries scramble for funds to fuel economic recovery. This is where countries’ overall debt scenario is crucial. While unceratinties abound, debt metrics are among the important indicators being watched by both domestic and international investors, along with credit rating agencies.
In the case of the Philippines, the relatively low external debt-to-GNI ratios attest to the government’s policy of sustaining its prudent borrowing activities. While the realities brought about by the health crisis has significantly changed the global economic and financial landscape, the government is steadfast in pursuing various reforms to raise much needed revenues to stimulate the economy and at the same time enhance the fiscal space.