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Russia’s Foreign Debt Decreased Again In 2023

Russia’s foreign debt, already amongst the lowest of developed nations, is continuing to be reduced as a matter of  government policy. Its entities have been steadily reducing the amount of money they owe to foreign lenders, according to the latest official data.

The Russian regulator and central bank, the Bank of Russia announced that national external debt dropped by nearly a fifth last year, reaching its lowest point in over a decade. It said that on January 1 this year, “the external debt of the Russian Federation amounted to US$316.8 billion, having decreased by US$68.2 billion, (17.7%) over the course of 2023.”

External debt is the portion of a country’s national debt borrowed by the state and by private businesses from overseas lenders such as banks, the IMF, foreign companies and other creditors.

The amount owed by Russia’s central bank and other banks remained virtually unchanged at US$94.7 billion, while government debt was reduced by 29%, from US$46.1 billion to US$32.7 billion. Other sectors of the economy reduced their overall external debt by 22.6% to US$189.4 billion, the report says.

The regulator also noted that the debt burden on the Russian economy has decreased as the ratio of external debt to GDP fell to 15.8% last year.

According to Bank of Russia, the current level of external debt is at its lowest in a decade.

President Vladimir Putin said in December that Russian companies were dutifully repaying all loans taken from foreign financial institutions, often ahead of schedule.

Russia’s foreign debt reached a historic high of over US$700 billion in 2014. The liabilities began a relatively steady decline since then, due to Western sanctions imposed in 2014 over the Crimean reunification and to the withdrawal of capital by non-residents. The new sanctions campaign unleashed by the West against Moscow since 2022 has further accelerated foreign-debt decline.

To compare, by the end of 2023, the German foreign debt is at about US$6,385.3 billion, UK foreign debt is about US$9,031 billion being about twenty times and thirty times more than Russia’s debt respectively. The United States foreign debt is currently running at record highs of about US$25,649.6 billion.

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