In one of his plays, William Shakespeare gives the advice: “Be neither a borrower nor a lender.” But borrowing and lending have been aspects of life since exchange became part of life.
Banks were established to offer custody to other people’s money and at the same time lend it to those who wanted to use it in business. A famous American businessperson, W.Clement Stone, had this to say: “Show me a millionaire and I will show you someone who has made use of OPM [meaning other people’s money].” In other words, millionaires have been great borrowers.
When you borrow whether as an individual or a State, you risk the burden of debts. What induces or compels individuals to borrow? Often people want to possess immediate something that they desire such as a car or a house. To save enough to buy chattels like these might take too many years. Hence, some individuals take mortgage loans or hire purchase.
Some people fall into debts because they are spending thrifts. As soon as they earn an income either in employment or business they spend all that they have earned at once. Or sometimes something suddenly happens to them which they cannot post phone such as, serious illness in the family requiring taking the patient to a reputable private doctor who is far away; heavy rains fall and rip off the roof of the house. The owner obtains a loan to repair the house. Such contingences in life are quite common.
Taking uncalculated risks landed Antonio in a debt which Shylock the creditor demanded the borrowers flesh as payment, if you recall The Merchant of Venice.
We have talked of personal debts as an introduction to something of national interest. This is the public debt. Recently, it has become more popular to talk of sovereign debts. These are debts owed be sovereign or independent States. Some of the reasons governments find themselves in heavy debts are the same as those which relate to personal and private debts.
From the days of Greek Peloponnesian wars through the wars of American independence of World War II, we see that governments have borrowed money either to defend their country from an invader or just to go out and make conquests. The king of England gave a charter for founding the Bank of England on condition the Bank lent him money to meet costs of waging wars on the continent.
Many States both in the developing and developed hemisphere fall into heavy debts because of the extravagance of those who are in charge of governments. A prudent head of government does not borrow money for recurrent expenditure. This is the expenditure to pay salaries to meet the costs of annual celebrations such as banquets. The President or Prime Minister borrows money for investment, to spend on projects that will directly or indirectly contribute to the growth of the economy.
When a President travels abroad to meet business people and cultivate friendships with other leaders for the purpose of enhancing commercial and economic relationships, this kind of expenditure is investment. The outcomes may not be seen immediately, but in the longer run they will be seen.
So far I refrained from joining those who have commented unfavourably on our Presidents overseas flights which lasted about three weeks. I saw those journeys as a sort of international public relations which can yield economic dividends.
However,sound advice says spend what is in your wallet, borrow what you can easily repay by using it for accelerating economic growth. The accountant general should regularly up-date information on the State of public funds so that those who do the spending do not over spend.