Colombia congress approves extension of debt ceiling to $17.6 billion

By Carlos Vargas

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Plenaries in Colombia’s lower house and Senate on Thursday both approved a request from the leftist government of President Gustavo Petro to increase the debt ceiling to $17.6 billion to finance its development plans and comply with payment terms.

The vote comes amid warnings from analysts about the state of the Andean country’s fiscal needs and after Petro said last month that Colombia could stop paying its debts or enter an economic emergency if the ceiling was not increased, comments later softened by Finance Minister Ricardo Bonilla.

Economic committees from both the lower house and the Senate approved the request last week.

“This gives clear rules going forward about how to manage public credit,” Finance Minister Ricardo Bonilla said after the measure was approved.

A recent slump in tax collection has set off alarms over how authorities will cover a budget shortfall estimated by analysts at about $7 billion this year. The government has already said it will cut spending by some $5 billion.

(Reporting by Carlos Vargas; Writing by Oliver Griffin)