Financial and Monetary Systems

This is how much you would have to contribute to pay off your country’s debt

An employee counts Euro notes at the Bank of Taiwan head office in Taipei May 10, 2010. Global policymakers unleashed an emergency rescue package worth about $1 trillion to stabilise world financial markets and prevent the Greek debt crisis from destroying the euro currency. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang (TAIWAN - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTR2DOS9

Image: REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Alex Gray
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Financial and Monetary Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Financial and Monetary Systems 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:

Financial and Monetary Systems

For a discussion on the future of the economy, watch the Global Economic Outlook session at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2017 here.

In addition to collecting taxes, governments also borrow money in order to meet their spending obligations.

For a lot of developed countries, this is usually in the realm of millions or trillions of US dollars, numbers that we might struggle to comprehend.

For example, the gross national debt of Japan is $ 10,000,000,000,000.

The gross national debt of the United States is $18,992,810,000,000.

This map seeks to make those numbers a bit more understandable, by looking at the debt relative to the country's population. In other words, by showing how much we would each owe if it were up to us to pay it back.

The snowball of debt
Image: IMF


At the centre of the globe are those countries which owe the most. For example, every person in Japan would have to pay a whopping $85,694.87 in order to pay off their government's debt.

Every person in Ireland would have to pay $67,147.59. In Singapore, it's $56,112.75 per person, and in Belgium, it's $44,202.75 per person.

Every American would have to pay $43,503.00.

Countries where public debt per capita is highest
Image: World Economic Forum
Have you read?

In some countries, with national debts that are much smaller, the figures are lower than $30 a person. In Liberia, for instance, a country with a national debt of 798,000,000,000, its people would have to pay back $27.44 per person. In Tajikistan, they would pay $50.67 per person and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, $90.70 per person.

Image: World Economic Forum

This clock is said to continually count the UK national debt, showing that it increases at a rate of £5,170 per second.

Image: National Debt Counter

Governments borrow money to spend on investments that will boost their own economies, as well as to meet their spending obligations. In an environment of low interest rates, it's cheap for them to do so.

However, some say that the debt is unsustainable, arguing that it poses new risks to financial stability and may undermine global economic growth.

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:
Financial and Monetary SystemsEconomic Growth
Share:
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.

US inflation cools – plus other economics stories to read this week

Rebecca Geldard

July 12, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum