Which countries have the highest public debt levels?

Global debt has climbed at an eye-watering pace over the last decade. According to the International Monetary Fund, global debt climbed to 225% of global GDP in 2017. That’s 12 percentage points higher than the previous record level set in 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis, and many have pointed toward the global debt pile-up, particularly public debt, as the potential culprit for the next global financial crisis.

The increase in global debt over the last decade has been led by public debt in much of the world, as public debt replaced private debt in the post-crisis recession. Much of this was brought on by stimulus programs and quantitative easing policies adopted by central banks around the world in an attempt to turn the global economy around. With interest rates at historic lows around the world, governments took advantage of cheap borrowing costs. However, once economic growth resumed, central banks were reluctant to normalize interest rates for fear that financial markets and economies would not be ready for the shift. Interest rates remained low for the last decade, while most major central banks adopted some kind of quantitative easing policy, which entailed massive purchases of securities.

This is not just a problem in developed economies. Emerging markets and even the poorest countries in the world have been gorging themselves on cheap debt. According to the IMF, debt-to-GDP ratios in emerging market and middle-income economies have reached almost 50%, levels that have not been seen since the 1980s during the Latin American debt crisis; a decade that has come to be known as, “the Lost Decade.” Even the world’s poorest economies, which had their debt written off in 2005 by the G7 countries’ Gleneagles agreement, have seen their debt-to-GDP surge to 40% of GDP.

With global debt levels at all-time highs and global growth appearing to be on the downward trend going in to 2019, the challenge for central banks and governments will be to reduce sovereign debt by following more prudent fiscal policies i.e. bring fiscal deficits under control and reduce state reliance on debt.

With that said, let’s take a look at the top 10 countries in terms of public debt-to-GDP according to the FocusEconomics Consensus Forecasts for 2019 through 2023. Find the full list below the infographic. 

 

Public Debt Forecasts 2019-2023

RankCountry2019 Public Debt % of GDP (projected)2023 Public Debt % of GDP (projected)
1Japan236227
2Greece175164
3Lebanon153156
4Venezuela152-
5Italy131128
6Portugal119107
7Singapore116119
8Mozambique114107
9United States108114
10Belgium10095
11France9894
12Spain9689
13Jordan9483
14Cyprus9477
15Bahrain9285
16Jamaica9280
17Puerto Rico9277
18Belize9188
19Egypt8873
20United Kingdom8581
21Yemen8472
22Argentina8175
23Brazil7982
24SriLanka7773
25Angola7461
26Pakistan7471
27Tunisia7374
28El Salvador7371
29Mongolia7251
30Croatia7262
31Austria7264
32Uruguay7178
33Hungary7064
34Montenegro7060
35Zambia6970
36India68-
37Slovenia6759
38Ghana6661
39Albania6659
40Laos6567
41Trinidad6567
42Morocco6462
43Ukraine6354
44Ireland6151
45Israel6054
46Kenya5957
47Costa Rica5963
48Finland5955
49Ethiopia5855
50Vietnam5755
51Germany5749
52South Africa5758
53Armenia5757
54Kyrgyzstan5660
55Serbia5547
56Nicaragua5568
57Tajikistan5561
58Malaysia5251
59Bolivia5254
60Iraq5149
61Qatar5143
62Netherlands5043
63Ecuador4952
64Azerbaijan4934
65Poland4947
66Slovakia4842
67Mexico4749
68Oman4752
69Cote d'Ivoire4745
70Colombia4646
71Belarus4633
72Malta4438
73Thailand4347
74Uganda4341
75Georgia4341
76Macedonia4341
77Dominican Republic4242
78Tanzania4142
79Philippines4139
80Panama4038
81Iran4035
82Australia4036
83Algeria3835
84Korea3838
85Bosnia 3834
86Romania3739
87Lithuania3731
88Latvia3732
89Sweden3632
90Iceland3525
91Haiti3534
92Cambodia3538
93Cameroon3534
94Denmark3530
95Moldova3539
96Myanmar3435
97Norway3331
98Bangladesh3334
99Turkmenistan3336
100CzechRepublic3127
101Taiwan3130
102Turkey3029
103Indonesia3029
104New Zealand2824
105Switzerland2823
106Peru2725
107Kuwait2634
108Chile2628
109Nigeria2628
110Guatemala2626
111Uzbekistan2425
112Kazakhstan2421
113Bulgaria2322
114Saudi Arabia2226
115Luxembourg2120
116UAE2018
117Paraguay2022
118Kosovo1922
119China1828
120DRC169
121Botswana1512
122Russia1311
123Estonia87
124Brunei22

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of FocusEconomics S.L.U. Views, forecasts or estimates are as of the date of the publication and are subject to change without notice. This report may provide addresses of, or contain hyperlinks to, other internet websites. FocusEconomics S.L.U. takes no responsibility for the contents of third party internet websites.

Date: January 22, 2019


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