Trends

The World’s Biggest Debtor Nations

Throughout the financial crisis, many national economies have looked to their government and foreign lenders for financial support, which translates to increased spending, borrowing and in most cases, growing national debt.

Deficit spending, government debt and private sector borrowing are the norm in most western countries, but due in part to the financial crisis, some nations and economies are in considerably worse debt positions than others.

External debt is a measure of a nation’s foreign liabilities, capital plus interest that the government and institutions within a nation’s borders must eventually pay. This number not only includes government debt, but also debt owed by corporations and individuals to entities outside their home country.

So, how does the US debt position compare to that of other countries? A useful measure of a country’s debt position is by comparing gross external debt to GDP. By comparing a country’s debt to what it produces, this ratio can be used to help determine the likelihood that a country as a whole will be able to repay its debt.

This report takes a look at the world’s 75 largest economies to see which ones have the highest external debt to GDP ratio, calculated using the most recent numbers from the World Bank. We’ve listed the top twenty here.

Since the first time this report was published in April 2009, the debt situations of many countries have become of increasingly influential in the markets. In many European nations, these debt levels have caused international organizations and bond investors to put pressure on governments to cut public debt through austerity measures and additional reductions in spending. The countries in the most dire need are the ones in which government debt is a large proportion of external debt, such as the PIIGS nations.

So, what are the world’s biggest debtor nations? See below to find out.

20. United States - 101.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 101.1%
Gross external debt: $14.825 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $14.66 trillion
External debt per capita: $48,258

19. Hungary - 120.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 120.1%

Gross external debt: $225.24 billion

2009 GDP (est): $187.6 billion

External debt per capita: $22,739

18. Australia – 138.9%

External debt (as % of GDP): 138.9%

Gross external debt: $1.23 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $882.4 billion

External debt per capita: $57,641

17. Italy – 146.6%

External debt (as % of GDP): 146.6%

Gross external debt: $2.602 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $1.77 trillion

External debt per capita: $44,760

16. Spain – 179.4%

External debt (as % of GDP): 179.4%

Gross external debt: $2.46 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $1.37 trillion

External debt per capita: $60,614

15. Greece – 182.2%

External debt (as % of GDP): 182.2%

Gross external debt: $579.7 billion
2010 GDP (est): $318.1 billion

External debt per capita: $53,984

14. Germany – 185.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 185.1%

Gross external debt: $5.44 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $2.94 trillion

External debt per capita: $51,572

13. Portugal - 223.6%

External debt (as % of GDP): 223.6%

Gross external debt: $552.23 billion
2010 GDP (est): $247 billion

External debt per capita: $51,572

12. France – 250%

External debt (as % of GDP): 250%

Gross external debt: $5.37 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $2.15 trillion

External debt per capita: $83,781

11. Hong Kong – 250.4%

External debt (as % of GDP): 250.4%

Gross external debt: $815.65 billion
2010 GDP (est): $325.8 billion

External debt per capita: $115,612

10. Norway – 251%

External debt (as % of GDP): 251%

Gross external debt: $640.7 billion
2010 GDP (est): $255.3 billion

External debt per capita: $137,476

9. Austria – 261.1%

External debt (as % of GDP): 261.1%

Gross external debt: $867.14 billion
2010 GDP (est): $332 billion

External debt per capita: $105,616

8. Finland – 271.5%

External debt (as % of GDP): 271.5%

Gross external debt: $505.06 billion
2010 GDP (est): $186 billion

External debt per capita: $96,197

7. Sweden – 282.2%

External debt (as % of GDP): 282.2%

Gross external debt: $1.001 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $354.7 billion

External debt per capita: $110,479

6. Denmark – 310.4%

External debt (as % of GDP): 310.4%

Gross external debt: $626.1 billion
2010 GDP (est): $201.7 billion
External debt per capita: $113,826

5. Belgium – 335.9%

External debt (as % of GDP): 335.9%

Gross external debt: $1.324 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $394.3 billion
External debt per capita: $127,197

4. Netherlands – 376.3%

External debt (as % of GDP): 376.3%
Gross external debt: $2.55 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $676.9 billion
External debt per capita: $152,380

3. Switzerland – 401.9%

External debt (as % of GDP): 401.9%

Gross external debt: $1.304 trillion

2010 GDP (est): $324.5 billion
External debt per capita: $171,528

2. United Kingdom – 413.3%

External debt (as % of GDP): 413.3%

Gross external debt: $8.981 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $2.173 trillion
External debt per capita: $146,953

1. Ireland – 1,382%

External debt (as % of GDP): 1,382%
Gross external debt: $2.38 trillion
2010 GDP (est): $172.3 billion
External debt per capita: $566,756

The World’s Biggest Debtor Nations was provided by CNBC.com