Public debt meaning: In the Indian context, public debt includes the total liabilities of the Union government that have to be paid from the Consolidated Fund of India.
Public debt is the total amount borrowed by the government of a country. So, why is public debt significant? Let’s take a closer look. In the Indian context, public debt includes the total liabilities of the Union government that have to be paid from the Consolidated Fund of India. Sometimes, the term is also used to refer to the overall liabilities of the central and state governments. However, the Union government clearly distinguishes its debt liabilities from those of the states. It calls overall liabilities of both the Union government and states as General Government Debt (GGD) or Consolidated General Government Debt.
What do you mean by Public Debt?
Since the Union government relies heavily on market borrowing to meet its operational and developmental expenditure, the study of public debt becomes key to understand the financial health of the government. The study of public debt involves the study of various factors such as debt-to-GDP ratio, and sustainability and sources of government debt. The fact that almost a fourth of the government expenditure goes into interest payment explains the magnitude of the liabilities of the Union government.
What are the types of Public Debt?
The Union government broadly classifies its liabilities into two broad categories. The debt contracted against the Consolidated Fund of India is defined as public debt and includes all other funds received outside Consolidated Fund of India under Article 266 (2) of the Constitution, where the government merely acts as a banker or custodian. The second type of liabilities is called public account.
Internal Public Debt versus External Public Debt
Over the years, the Union government has followed a considered strategy to reduce its dependence on foreign loans in its overall loan mix. Internal debt constitutes more than 93% of the overall public debt. Also, note that external loans are not market loans. They have been raised from institutional creditors at concessional rates. Most of these external loans are fixed-rate loans, free from interest rate or currency volatility.
Internal loans that make up for the bulk of public debt are further divided into two broad categories – marketable and non-marketable debt.
Dated government securities (G-Secs) and treasury bills (T-bills) are issued through auctions and fall in the category of marketable debt. Intermediate treasury bills (with a maturity period of 14 days) issued to state governments and public sector banks, special securities issued to National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) are classified as non-marketable debt.