Which countries have the highest public debt levels?

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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 into 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.

Public Debt Forecasts 2019-2023

RankCountry2019 Public Debt % of GDP (projected)2023 Public Debt % of GDP (projected)
1 Japan236227
2 Greece175164
3 Lebanon153156
4 Venezuela152
5 Italy131128
6 Portugal119107
7 Singapore116119
8 Mozambique114107
9 United States108114
10 Belgium10095


11 France                                                                                        98                                                                                          94
12 Spain9689
13 Jordan9483
14 Cyprus9477
15 Bahrain9285
16 Jamaica9280
17 Puerto Rico9277
18 Belize9188
19 Egypt8873
20 United Kingdom8581
21 Yemen8472
22 Argentina8175
23 Brazil7982
24 SriLanka7773
25 Angola7461
26 Pakistan7471
27 Tunisia7374
28 El Salvador7371
29 Mongolia7251
30 Croatia7262
31 Austria7264
32 Uruguay7178
33 Hungary7064
34 Montenegro7060
35 Zambia6970
36 India68
37 Slovenia6759
38 Ghana6661
39 Albania6659
40 Laos6567
41 Trinidad6567
42 Morocco6462
43 Ukraine6354
44 Ireland6151
45 Israel6054
46 Kenya5957
47 Costa Rica5963
48 Finland5955
49 Ethiopia5855
50 Vietnam5755
51 Germany5749
52 South Africa5758
53 Armenia5757
54 Kyrgyzstan5660
55 Serbia5547
56 Nicaragua5568
57 Tajikistan5561
58 Malaysia5251
59 Bolivia5254
60 Iraq5149
61 Qatar5143
62 Netherlands5043
63 Ecuador4952
64 Azerbaijan4934
65 Poland4947
66 Slovakia4842
67 Mexico4749
68 Oman4752
69 Cote d’Ivoire4745
70 Colombia4646
71 Belarus4633
72 Malta4438
73 Thailand4347
74 Uganda4341
75 Georgia4341
76 Macedonia4341
77 Dominican Republic4242
78 Tanzania4142
79 Philippines4139
80 Panama4038
81 Iran4035
82 Australia4036
83 Algeria3835
84 Korea3838
85 Bosnia3834
86 Romania3739
87 Lithuania3731
88 Latvia3732
89 Sweden3632
90 Iceland3525
91 Haiti3534
92 Cambodia3538
93 Cameroon3534
94 Denmark3530
95 Moldova3539
96 Myanmar3435
97 Norway3331
98 Bangladesh3334
99 Turkmenistan3336
100 Czech Republic3127
101 Taiwan3130
102 Turkey3029
103 Indonesia3029
104 New Zealand2824
105 Switzerland2823
106 Peru2725
107 Kuwait2634
108 Chile2628
109 Nigeria2628
110 Guatemala2626
111 Uzbekistan2425
112 Kazakhstan2421
113 Bulgaria2322
114 Saudi Arabia2226
115 Luxembourg2120
116 UAE2018
117 Paraguay2022
118 Kosovo1922
119 China1828
120 DRC169
121 Botswana1512
122 Russia1311
123 Estonia87
124 Brunei22

Source: Focus Economics

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