Chart of the WeekThe Pre-Pandemic Debt Landscape—and Why It Matters

2021-02-02T10:19:45-05:00February 1, 2021|

By Xuehui Han, Paulo Medas, and Susan Yang

Many countries entered the pandemic with elevated debt levels. Our new update of the IMF’s Global Debt Database shows that global debt—public plus private—reached $197 trillion in 2019, up by $9 trillion from the previous year. This substantial debt created challenges for countries that faced a debt surge in 2020, as economic activity collapsed and governments acted swiftly to provide support during the pandemic.

Higher debt can potentially reduce the ability of governments to react to the COVID-19 crisis.

Our data show that the global average debt-to-GDP ratio (weighted by each country’s GDP in US dollars) rose to 226 percent in 2019, 1.5 percentage points higher than in 2018. Most of the increase came from higher public debt in emerging market economies and advanced economies outside of Europe. In low-income countries, total debt rose by 1.3 percentage points of GDP in 2019—mostly driven, in contrast, by higher private debt.

As shown in our chart of the week, a dive into the numbers reveals that the 2019 global public debt surpassed its 2007 level by 23 percentage points of GDP. This is primarily driven by the higher […]

New Data on Global Debt

2019-03-13T10:35:33-04:00January 2, 2019|

January 2, 2019
Pedestrians in the snow in Tokyo, Japan: the country is one of the top three borrowers in the world (photo: Morio Taga/Newscom)
Until recently, we had a partial view of global debt. Our new update to the IMF’s Global Debt Database, first made public in May 2018, now fills even more of the gaps. We have compiled data on public and private debt for 190 countries, dating back to 1950, which now includes the latest numbers for 2017.

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Big Bad Actors: A Global View of Debt

2019-03-26T15:45:17-04:00October 5, 2016|

By Vitor Gaspar and Marialuz Moreno Badia

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

In the midst of the Great Depression, the American economist Irving Fisher warned of the dangers of excessive debt and the deflationary pressures that follow on its tail. He saw debt and deflation as the big, bad actors. Now, their close relatives—too high debt and too low inflation—are still in play, at least for advanced economies.

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