Geo-Economics and Politics

The 20 countries with the greatest public debt

José Santiago
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geo-Economics and Politics?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Geo-economics is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


Japan, the world’s most indebted nation, is struggling to emerge from over two decades of stagnation. Greece, second in the list, is suffering a critical economic crisis. According to the IMF.

Since the early 1990’s Japan has experienced continuous stagnation. Recently, policies put in place by the Government to tackle the crisis have tended to push debt levels even higher. Currently, the Japanese Government is spending almost half of its total tax revenue on tackling the enormous debt. In spite of this, the yield on 10-year Japanese bonds remains at a surprisingly low level, under 1%.

Greece has accumulated a massive debt. On 14 July 2015, the IMF released a report addressing Greece’s debt sustainability. The introduction in the report gives an accurate image of the country’s situation:

Greece’s public debt has become highly unsustainable. This is due to the easing of policies during the last year, with the recent deterioration in the domestic macroeconomic and financial environment because of the closure of the banking system adding significantly to the adverse dynamics.

The financing need through end-2018 is now estimated at €85bn and debt is expected to peak at close to 200 percent of GDP in the next two years, provided that there is an early agreement on a program. Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far.

Here are the 20 countries with the highest public debt:



Author: José Santiago, Senior Associate, Public Engagement at the World Economic Forum.

Image: The Japanese national flag is seen near a monitor displaying the exchange rate of the yen against the dollar REUTERS/Thomas Peter




Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geo-Economics and PoliticsEconomic Growth
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

European financial institutions are confronting new challenges. Here's how

Kalin Anev Janse and Kim Skov Jensen

May 22, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum