ISLAMABAD -  The incumbent government has added $13 billion to the external debt and Rs3.1 trillion to the domestic debt during last three and a half years, which resulted in pushing the country’s debt to the higher side.

Director General (DG) Debt of Ministry of Finance informed the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue that incumbent government had taken total debt of $24.99 billion from external sources during July 2013 to June 2016 and it repaid $12 billion back to them. He further informed that around $12.99 billion debt is outstanding, which has been added to external debt. Giving further details, he said that country’s total external debt and liabilities have increased to $72.8 billion. He further informed that total external debt stood at $57.8 billion, while non-public debt of $15 billion was not the obligation of the government. Meanwhile, the government took domestic borrowings worth Rs3.1 trillion during last three and a half years.

The committee, which met under the chair of Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, discussed the government’s borrowing since it took charge in 2013. A committee member Senator Mohsin Aziz of PTI asked whether loan taken under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was included in public’s debt or not. The official of the Ministry of Finance responded by saying, “Money borrowed from external sources is included in the debt.”

The official, on a question of Senator Aziz, clarified that amount of $1.5 billion provided to Pakistan by Saudi Arabia was not loan rather it was given us as a gift. The committee was informed that Pakistan’s debt to GDP ratio has went up to 66 percent, which would be brought down to below 60 percent in next years.

The Senate’s body has also discussed the General Sales Tax (GST) on petroleum products. The committee members showed concerns on the higher collection of GST on oil products. They asked the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to provide complete details of the GST on petroleum products collected since June 30 2013. However, the FBR’s officials defended the GST on oil products by saying petrol prices were lower in Pakistan as compared to the other countries of the region.

The committee gave one week time to the ministry of water and power and FBR for providing details regarding payment of Rs480 billion to clear the circular debt.

The official of SME Bank briefed the committee on functions of the bank. He informed that privatisation process of the bank would be completed by next year. The committee directed the authorities concerned to appoint the bank’s board of directors’ chairman within a month. The Senate’s body also showed concerns on the corruption cases in the National Bank of Pakistan. The officials of the NBP informed that persons involved in embezzlement in Prime Minister’s Youth Loan Scheme in National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Mardan Region case were immediately suspended and an FIR would also be lodged against them.

Senators Mushahidullah Khan, Mohsin Khan Leghari, Mohsin Aziz, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hassani, Kamil Ali Agha and Nuzhat Yasmeen also attended the meeting.