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

Rank Country 2019 Public Debt % of GDP (projected) 2023 Public Debt % of GDP (projected)
1 Japan 236 227
2 Greece 175 164
3 Lebanon 153 156
4 Venezuela 152 -
5 Italy 131 128
6 Portugal 119 107
7 Singapore 116 119
8 Mozambique 114 107
9 United States 108 114
10 Belgium 100 95
11 France 98 94
12 Spain 96 89
13 Jordan 94 83
14 Cyprus 94 77
15 Bahrain 92 85
16 Jamaica 92 80
17 Puerto Rico 92 77
18 Belize 91 88
19 Egypt 88 73
20 United Kingdom 85 81
21 Yemen 84 72
22 Argentina 81 75
23 Brazil 79 82
24 SriLanka 77 73
25 Angola 74 61
26 Pakistan 74 71
27 Tunisia 73 74
28 El Salvador 73 71
29 Mongolia 72 51
30 Croatia 72 62
31 Austria 72 64
32 Uruguay 71 78
33 Hungary 70 64
34 Montenegro 70 60
35 Zambia 69 70
36 India 68 -
37 Slovenia 67 59
38 Ghana 66 61
39 Albania 66 59
40 Laos 65 67
41 Trinidad 65 67
42 Morocco 64 62
43 Ukraine 63 54
44 Ireland 61 51
45 Israel 60 54
46 Kenya 59 57
47 Costa Rica 59 63
48 Finland 59 55
49 Ethiopia 58 55
50 Vietnam 57 55
51 Germany 57 49
52 South Africa 57 58
53 Armenia 57 57
54 Kyrgyzstan 56 60
55 Serbia 55 47
56 Nicaragua 55 68
57 Tajikistan 55 61
58 Malaysia 52 51
59 Bolivia 52 54
60 Iraq 51 49
61 Qatar 51 43
62 Netherlands 50 43
63 Ecuador 49 52
64 Azerbaijan 49 34
65 Poland 49 47
66 Slovakia 48 42
67 Mexico 47 49
68 Oman 47 52
69 Cote d'Ivoire 47 45
70 Colombia 46 46
71 Belarus 46 33
72 Malta 44 38
73 Thailand 43 47
74 Uganda 43 41
75 Georgia 43 41
76 Macedonia 43 41
77 Dominican Republic 42 42
78 Tanzania 41 42
79 Philippines 41 39
80 Panama 40 38
81 Iran 40 35
82 Australia 40 36
83 Algeria 38 35
84 Korea 38 38
85 Bosnia  38 34
86 Romania 37 39
87 Lithuania 37 31
88 Latvia 37 32
89 Sweden 36 32
90 Iceland 35 25
91 Haiti 35 34
92 Cambodia 35 38
93 Cameroon 35 34
94 Denmark 35 30
95 Moldova 35 39
96 Myanmar 34 35
97 Norway 33 31
98 Bangladesh 33 34
99 Turkmenistan 33 36
100 CzechRepublic 31 27
101 Taiwan 31 30
102 Turkey 30 29
103 Indonesia 30 29
104 New Zealand 28 24
105 Switzerland 28 23
106 Peru 27 25
107 Kuwait 26 34
108 Chile 26 28
109 Nigeria 26 28
110 Guatemala 26 26
111 Uzbekistan 24 25
112 Kazakhstan 24 21
113 Bulgaria 23 22
114 Saudi Arabia 22 26
115 Luxembourg 21 20
116 UAE 20 18
117 Paraguay 20 22
118 Kosovo 19 22
119 China 18 28
120 DRC 16 9
121 Botswana 15 12
122 Russia 13 11
123 Estonia 8 7
124 Brunei 2 2

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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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