5 facts about government debt around the world

Source: Pew Research Center

Public debt has increased sharply in many countries in recent years, particularly during and after the Great Recession. Globally, the total amount of government debt now exceeds $63.1 trillion, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of International Monetary Fund data.

Here are five facts about government debt around the world. This analysis is based on IMF data for 43 countries that are members of the Group of Twenty or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The figures used are for consolidated debt issued by all levels of government, less debt held by other governmental units (unless otherwise noted).

1The United States has more government debt than any other country analyzed, with nearly $20 trillion in gross debt in 2016. Japan was second, with 1,285 trillion yen (more than $11 trillion in 2016 dollars), followed by China with 34.5 trillion yuan (nearly $5 trillion). (Gross debt refers to all public debt – including intragovernmental debt, or what the government owes itself. Net debt, by contrast, is gross debt minus government assets related to debt, such as pensions for government workers.)

Worldwide, public debt is still significantly lower than total debt owed by the private sector. Private debt made up about two-thirds of all non-financial-sector global debt in 2015.

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  1. My somewhat unprofessional opinion: Government debts for countries who control their own countries is not such a big problem. Take the US for instance. They made debts at Swiss Francs 4.30 per dollar. Now the same dollar is worth only one Swiss Franc. Consequently they ‘got rid’ already of a huge junk of their debt. Still too much? No problem: let the dollar devalue further. Professionals: Are my thoughts correct or am I right? (More serious for those countries who cannot fiddle around with the currency of the debts).

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