Home / Finance Concepts / External Debt and Public Debt as % of GDP, by country

 
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In the United States, a highly controversial issue right now is the debt ceiling limit.

The current debt ceiling of the US, set by law, is $14.3 trillion. According to the United States Treasury, this limit was reached in May 2011 and, if the limit is not raised, the US could fulfill all its obligations only until August 2, 2011 — less than a week from now.

Thus, the US government insists, the debt ceiling must be raised in order to avoid damaging repercussions to the US economy and, consequently, to the global economy. Not raising the limit would result to a drastic reduction in the country’s spending and a possible default on its loan obligations.

At $14.3 trillion debt as of May 2011, the United States has the biggest external debt among all countries worldwide. The United Kingdom is second with $8.98 trillion, while Germany follows next with $4.71 trillion.

External Debt refers to “the total public and private debt owed to nonresidents repayable in internationally accepted currencies, goods, or services.” Simply stated, external debt is the combined total debt or loan of the public (government) and private sector, payable in a foreign currency.

The list of selected countries with their total external debt is shown below.

TOTAL EXTERNAL DEBT OF SELECTED COUNTRIES

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RankCountryTotal External Debt (in US Dollars)As of% of GDP
1United States14.3 trillion16 May 201195%
2United Kingdom8.98 trillion30 June 2010400%
3Germany4.71 trillion30 June 2010142%
4France4.70 trillion30 June 2010182%
5Netherlands3.73 trillion31 December 2009471%
6Japan2.44 trillion30 September 201045%
7Ireland2.25 trillion30 September 20101,103%
8Norway2.23 trillion30 June 2010538%
9Italy2.22 trillion30 June 2010108%
10Spain2.17 trillion30 June 2010154%
11Luxembourg1.89 trillion30 June 20103,443%
14Australia1.17 trillion31 December 201095%
15Canada1.01 trillion30 June 201064%
19Greece532.9 billion30 June 2010174%
22China406.6 billion31 December 20107%
28India237.1 billion31 December 201015%
30Indonesia196.1 billion31 December 201028%
42Thailand82.5 billion31 December 201026%
44Malaysia72.6 billion31 December 201031%
47Philippines59.78 billion30 September 201032%

Another debt statistic that is of utmost importance is the country’s level of public debt. Public debt is the “cumulative total of all government borrowings less repayments that are denominated in a country’s home currency.” In layman’s terms, public debt is the total loan amount of the sovereign state’s government.

Comparing the level of public debt with the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) produces the Debt-to-GDP ratio. A low debt-to-GDP ratio indicates that the county’s economy is generally healthy because it produces a large number of goods and services that are high enough to pay back its debts.

Below is a table showing the public debt-to-GDP percentage of selected countries.

PUBLIC DEBT OF SELECTED COUNTRIES AS A PERCENTAGE OF GDP

RankCountry% of GDPAs of
1Japan225.8%2010
2Saint Kitts and Nevis185.0%2010
3Lebanon150.7%2010
4Zimbabwe149.0%2010
5Greece144.0%2010
6Iceland123.8%2010
7Jamaica123.2%2010
8Italy118.1%2010
9Singapore102.4%2010
10Belgium98.6%2010
11Ireland94.2%2010
14France83.5%2010
19Germany78.8%2010
23United Kingdom76.5%2010
36United States58.9%2010
41Vietnam56.7%2010
42Philippines56.5%2010
44India55.9%2010
48Malaysia53.1%2010
62Thailand42.3%2010

Source: The World Factbook, US Central Intelligence Agency

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