Inequality

Here’s how much debt your country is in right now

People are reflected in a stock quotation board showing share price of Nissan Motor Co outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan November 20, 2018.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai - RC1F5F10C830

The global economic tide can change fast. Image: REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Jeff Desjardins
Founder and editor, Visual Capitalist
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Inequality

Over the last five years, markets have pushed concerns about debt under the rug.

While economic growth and record-low interest rates have made it easy to service existing government debt, it’s also created a situation where government debt has grown in to over $63 trillion in absolute terms.

The global economic tide can change fast, and in the event of a recession or rapidly rising interest rates, debt levels could come back into the spotlight very quickly.

Debt to GDP ratio, 2017 (%) Image: howmuch.net

The debt snowball

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net and it rolls the world’s countries into a “snowball” of government debt, colored and arranged by debt-to-GDP ratios. The data itself comes from the IMF’s most recent October 2018 update.

The structure of the visualization is apt, because debt can accumulate in an unsustainable way if governments are not proactive. This situation can create a vicious cycle, where mounting debt can start hampering growth, making the debt ultimately harder to pay off.

Here are the countries with the most debt on the books:

Japan and Greece are the most indebted countries in the world, with debt-to-GDP ratios of 237.6% and 181.8% respectively. Meanwhile, the United States sits in the #8 spot with a 105.2% ratio, and recent Treasury estimates putting the national debt at $22 trillion.

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Light snow

On the opposite spectrum, here are the 10 jurisdictions that have incurred less debt relative to the size of their economies:

Macao and Hong Kong – both special administrative regions (SARs) in China – have virtually zero debt on the books, while the official country with the lowest debt is Brunei (2.8%).

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Related topics:
InequalityGlobal GovernanceFinancial and Monetary Systems
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