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Which countries have the highest public debt levels?

Post available in: English

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

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  Czech Republic 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

Source: Focus Economics

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