Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Government Debt in BC

In looking through the BC Budget and Fiscal Plan - 2013/14 to 2015/16 I am worried about the direction the debt of the province is going.

(all numbers come from BC Government budget documents - it is important to know that not all the numbers agree with each and results in the past are often restated)

As an example, in 2006/07 the debt of BC Hydro was $7,144,000,000.  In 2012/13 is stands at $14,416,000,000.  That is a doubling of their debt in six years and an additional debt servicing cost of something around $250,000,000 per year.   This budget forecasts this to rise to $18,854,000,000 by 2015/16.   I do not believe this includes any debt to pay for the Site "C" project.

The increase in debt for BC Hydro concerns me, but it is self supported debt.  This means BC Hydro will pay for it from their revenues.   What concerns me more is the increase in direct taxpayer supported debt and how quickly it has risen

Taxpayer supported debt

Year    amount in millions % of GDP
1992/93    $15,896          18.4
1993/94    $17,981          19.5
1994/95    $19,037          19.3
1995/96    $19,866          19.5     
1996/97    $21,152          19.6
1997/98    $21,978          19.8
1998/99    $22,921          20.1
1999/00    $25,181          20.9
2000/01    $24,998          19.2
2001/02    $27,534          20.9
2002/03    $29,425          21.7
2003/04    $30,028          20.6   
2004/05    $28,668          18.2
2005/06    $27,251          16.1        
2006/07    $25,968          13.9
2007/08    $26,589          13.5
2008/09    $26,446          13.0
2009/10    $30,021          15.3
2010/11    $31,855          15.3
2011/12    $34,692          15.9
2012/13    $38,337          17.0
2013/14    $42,557          18.2
2014/15    $44,493          18.3
2015/16    $46,070          18.1

What concerns me the most is how quickly the debt levels rose in only a few years.   We had a period during which the total taxpayer supported debt in BC was going done but since the end of 2008/09 we have quickly added to the debt.

Under the NDP there was a constant rise in the debt of the province, not desperately fast by any measure but constant.

With the Liberals it is their second term that was the golden age of reducing the debt burden.  It is this third term that has not really been going there way.    If the current budget turns out to be too optimistic, we could see a 2013/14 debt of more like $43,000,000,000 to $43,500,000,000 and a debt to GDP ratio of 18.4% to 18.6%.

I suspect that we are likely to see a $50,000,000,000 taxpayer supported debt before the 2017 election.
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