List of National Debt by Country

  • This is a list of the gross national debt of 178 countries, showing the variation in debt levels from Venezuela at 304% of GDP to Macau at 0% of GDP.
  • National debt refers to the amount of total government debt a country has. This is also referred to as ‘public sector debt’.
  • It is compiled using data from the IMF.
  • Note: National debt is different to ‘External debt‘ – External debt includes all the debt a country (both private and public sector) owes to foreigners.
  • Updated 1 September 2021.

Debt of selected economies

selected-20-gdp-
Source: IMF (2021)

List of National Debt by Country

Levels of general gross government debt. Debt levels as % of GDP for 2021 (² unless stated)

Rank Country Debt levels as % of GDP for 2021
1 Venezuela ² 304
2 Japan 256.5
3 Sudan 211.7
4 Greece 210.1
5 Eritrea 175.6
6 Suriname 157.4
7 Italy 157.1
8 Lebanon ² 154
9 Barbados 143
10 Maldives 139.7
11 Cabo Verde 137.6
12 Belize 134.6
13 United States 132.8
14 Portugal 131.4
15 Singapore 129.5
16 Bahrain 129.4
17 Mozambique 125.3
18 Bhutan 123.4
19 Zambia 118.7
20 Spain 118.4
21 Canada 116.3
22 Belgium 115.9
23 France 115.2
24 Cyprus 113
25 Angola 110.7
26 United Kingdom 107.1
27 Sri Lanka 105.4
28 Argentina (2) 103
29 Brazil 98.4
30 Jamaica 96.5
31 Dominica 96.4
32 Montenegro 94.6
33 Egypt 92.9
34 Jordan 91.2
35 Tunisia 91.2
36 Congo, Republic of 90.5
37 Bahamas, The 88.6
38 El Salvador 88.2
39 Mauritius 87.7
40 Pakistan 87.7
41 Austria 87.2
42 India 86.6
43 Croatia 86.3
44 Fiji 83.6
45 Iceland 82.5
46 Ghana 81.5
47 South Africa 80.8
48 Slovenia 80.5
49 Hungary 80
50 Israel 78.3
51 Guinea-Bissau 78.1
52 Mongolia 77.9
53 Morocco 77.1
54 Malawi 76.8
55 Burundi 75.6
56 Albania 75.4
57 Grenada 74.5
58 Gambia, The 73.9
59 Kyrgyz Republic 73.4
60 Yemen 73
61 Costa Rica 72.5
62 São Tomé and Príncipe 72.4
63 Australia 72.1
64 Kenya 71.5
65 Namibia 71.4
66 Oman 71.3
67 Gabon 71.1
68 Germany 70.3
69 Armenia 69.9
70 Iraq 69.7
71 China, People’s Republic of 69.6
72 Bolivia 69
73 Finland 68.8
74 Lao P.D.R. 68.3
75 Uruguay 68
76 Malaysia 67
77 Senegal 66.8
78 Dominican Republic 66.6
79 Rwanda 66
80 Ecuador 65.1
81 Puerto Rico 64.8
82 Colombia 64.2
83 Slovak Republic 64
84 Emerging market and developing economies 64
85 Georgia 63.9
86 Algeria 63.3
87 Ireland 63.2
88 Trinidad and Tobago 62.1
89 Panama 61.4
90 Mexico 60.5
91 Togo 60
92 Qatar 59.8
93 Serbia 59
94 Ukraine 58.1
95 Malta 57.9
96 Poland 57.4
97 Liberia 57
98 Mauritania 56.3
99 Netherlands 56.1
100 Ethiopia 56
101 Thailand 55.9
102 Honduras 53.9
103 North Macedonia 53.8
104 Korea, Republic of 53.2
105 Romania 52.6
106 Philippines 51.9
107 Zimbabwe 51.4
108 Lesotho 49.8
109 Tajikistan 49.8
110 Nepal 49.6
111 Papua New Guinea 49.6
112 Lithuania 49.5
113 Myanmar 49.1
114 Samoa 49
115 Uganda 48.8
116 Vietnam 48
117 West Bank and Gaza 47.9
118 Benin 47.7
119 Nicaragua 47.6
120 Latvia 47.2
121 South Sudan, Republic of 47
122 Madagascar 46.9
123 Burkina Faso 46.8
124 New Zealand 46.4
125 Côte d’Ivoire 46.3
126 Mali 46.1
127 Belarus 45.7
128 Switzerland 44.8
129 Niger 44.5
130 Equatorial Guinea 44.1
131 Czech Republic 44
132 Tonga 43.7
133 Cameroon 42.5
134 Guinea 42.3
135 Uzbekistan 42.3
136 Central African Republic 42.2
137 Chad 41.7
138 Denmark 41.6
139 Norway 41.6
140 Guyana 41.4
141 Indonesia 41.4
142 Sweden 40.4
143 Bangladesh 40.2
144 Djibouti 40.2
145 Moldova 39.5
146 Bosnia and Herzegovina 38.6
147 Tanzania 37.9
148 Turkey 37.1
149 United Arab Emirates 37.1
150 Iran 36.6
151 Paraguay 35.7
152 Peru 35.4
153 Chile 33.6
154 Cambodia 33.4
155 Guatemala 33.1
156 Taiwan Province of China 32.5
157 Nigeria 31.9
158 Saudi Arabia 31
159 Azerbaijan 30.9
160 Kazakhstan 27
161 Luxembourg 26.8
162 Haiti 26
163 Turkmenistan 26
164 Bulgaria 25.5
165 Botswana 25.3
166 Estonia 25.1
167 Marshall Islands 23.3
168 Kiribati 21.4
169 Russian Federation 18.1
170 Micronesia, Fed. States of 15.3
171 Timor-Leste 15
172 Kuwait 13.7
173 Congo, Dem. Rep. of the 12.4
174 Tuvalu 11.8
175 Afghanistan 8.8
176 Brunei Darussalam 2.3
177 Hong Kong SAR 0.9
178 Macao SAR 0

All debt levels apply to 2021, except  ² No figures for 2021. Debt given for 2020

Source: IMF DataSet, accessed 1 September 2021

Highest levels of Government debt in the world

top-20-national-debt

The country with the highest debt to GDP ratio in 2020 was Venezuela (304%) – a reflection of a collapsing economy and failure to collect tax revenues.

The second biggest debt burden is Japan with 256% – though this is very different situation with economic stability and prosperity. The Japanese government is able to borrow from private individuals in Japan. Conflict in Sudan and Eritrea have played a large role in their high debt levels.

Lowest levels of government debt in the world

lowest-20-gdp-debt

The country with the lowest levels of debt is Macau – an autonomous region on the south coast of China. Macau is the most densely populated region in the world, with one of highest levels of GDP per capita. Nearly 80% of the government’s revenue comes from a thriving gambling industry. Oil producing countries, like Brunei, Kuwait and Kazakhstan have low levels of debt because governments have successfully collected tax revenue from oil.

Some very poor countries like Afghanistan, Congo and Haiti have perhaps surprisingly low levels of debt. One reason is that the country does not have functioning bond markets. There is so much uncertainty that governments do not have the opportunity to borrow.

Problems of national debt

High levels of national debt can cause these potential problems

  1. Requirement of higher taxes and/or lower spending
  2. Higher debt interest payments
  3. Pressure to print money – causing inflation.
  4. Debt financed by overseas borrowing can lead to external pressure
  5. Crowding out of the private sector

See: more problems of government borrowing

How much can a government borrow?

  • Japan’s national debt is 265% of GDP and has been high for a couple of decades. This reflects the ability of Japan to borrow from domestic citizens. Despite prolonged periods of high debt, interest rates are still low because markets feel the government is still solvent.
  • A developing economy like Argentina has a track record of default on debt, therefore markets are less willing to lend money to the government. Therefore when debt levels in Argentina increase it has a greater effect on pushing up interest rates.

Factors that depend on how much a government can borrow include

  • Default rates of government
  • Inflationary pressures. High inflation will make investors less willing to buy government bonds because they will devalue due to inflation
  • Can the government print its own money? If the government can print money it can avoid liquidity issues, though there is potential danger of inflation.
  • What are the prospects for economic growth? Higher economic growth makes it easier to reduce debt to GDP ratios over time.
  • How much can a government borrow?

Difference between debt and deficit

Government debt is the total amount of outstanding liabilities.  The deficit is the annual amount by which spending exceeds income. The debt is the accumulation of past deficits.

For example in 2020, the US deficit was $3.13 trillion. The US total debt is $29 trillion.

Causes of national debt

us-national-debt-held-public-1790-2021

This graph for US national debt shows how national crisis leads to a rise in government borrowing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Government debt enabled the US government to finance the short-term costs of the two world wars. It also enabled the government to respond to the crisis of the 2008 financial crash and the 2020 Covid crisis. Causes of national debt can include

  • Recession – tax revenues fall when the economy shrinks. Also the government spend more on unemployment benefits
  • Investment – Governments might borrow to build new roads, schools and hospitals.
  • Finance war –
  • Demographic changes and welfare spending. An ageing population tends to place more strain on government finances with older people requiring more health care spending, pensions and also they pay less income tax.
  • Political decisions. Some governments may support higher spending on welfare programmes, whearas other governments may target a balanced budget.

Related

Further Reading

Readers Question

36 thoughts on “List of National Debt by Country”

  1. Why is the US debt listed here as 90.8% of GDP in the opening paragraphs, and then listed as No. 66 at 39.7% of GDP? By other accounts we do seem to be closing in on 100%, and so should be listed between Nos. 11 & 12 (differences between 2008 and 2009 notwithstanding). I wonder if the U.S. could negotiate lower interest rates on its public debts without causing panic, so that it could lower its interest payments, get its economy going again, and pay down the principal over the long term. I know…not as easy as it sounds.

    Reply
  2. Why is Japans debt so high?
    @Kendrick: As I understand it is any level of government’s debt, and that debt is usually owed to the people, but countries with high trade deificiets that money begins to be owed to people oversea’s. And why do we not pay our debt? Because then no other countries would trade with you until you payed the debt, which would be even harder then usual because you wuld have lost a massive percentage of GDP because of the losss of trade(We need oil)
    I am still learning so tell me if I am wrong:)

    Reply
  3. @Wahid: It is because the government pours in money to stimulate the economy, increasing their debt, and if the japanese spent it, future tax revenue, but they save it instead, making the government continue to pour money in. Correct me if I am wrong(:

    Reply
  4. All debts are owed to somone (or something). If you add all the national debts and subtract the national surpluses (and do not include the domestic loans from the members of the states to their own state) you still wind up with a lot of money owed to the world bank.
    How did the world bank get so rich?
    The same way all banks make money – by “printing”
    So what we need to learn is “Who controls the world bank and the income earned by interests on all those loans?” and “What do they do with all that money?”

    Reply
  5. When are people in this world going to wake up and realize the banks own them? Dept is money and money is created from dept, no dept, no printing. Once upon a time money was linked to finite assets i.e. gold, silver, rice etc. Now Global banks dictate how much money is in circulation which it creates from thin air and issued as government bonds, which is then lent to national banks who fractionalize that out at 25:1, functioning more money creation, which is paid back in real assets plus usury (interest). If all worlds’ currencies were based on real assets how could the whole word be in dept? It couldn’t. Put this way, if you owned all the gold in the world and loan some out how could you possible gain usury in gold? You couldn’t because you already own it all. Solution, print more money, bankers get richer and the working class feed them.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: UK National Debt | our working lives, then and now
  7. a. Why is debt related to GDP?
    An employees debt is not related to their employers income.
    The important factor is government income to expenditure i.e. the deficit.
    b. the ‘national debt’ should be government, business and private debt.
    That would provide a different picture, and the reason why they do not publish it.

    Reply
    • External debts is what your government borrows from other countries. GDP is what your country produces. The ratio of what you owe others and what you produce is the same as the ratio of what you earn versus the loan you have with the bank. If you borrow $1000 from the bank and you earn $100 then the ratio of debt to income is 10 (1000/100). The relationship you had between your salary and employer’s debt is not a valid one.

      Reply
  8. If almost every nation has a deficit, can’t that debt be offset to some world credit system that allows each country to pay it back, interest free, over say 100 years?
    The burden of debt on today’s world population is far too big for us to pay off in our lifetime. There is so much poverty in the world and yet we have the people, skills and materials to fix that – we just don’t have the money!
    I thought the World Bank or the IMF was there to help countries balance their budgets, but I guess they too have run out of money.
    There must be a fix for this; after all it’s just numbers in a computer.

    Reply
  9. When all countries have a national debt, a public debt,external debt, just who do they owe this debt to? if it is each other they are all in debt so borrowing from one to another makes no sense except to increase the existing debt.
    One would assume that the basis for credit creation the multiple upon a real unemcumbered deposit has disapeared and been replaced with debt upon debt, and as all new loans are new money this also means credit creation upon saturated debt, a bubble of world wide debt waiting for the pinprick.

    Reply
  10. Canada’s total public debt is in the 80%. The difference between the 34% and the 84% shown in the 2 sources is the provincial debts. Canada’s federal system is decentralized. The provinces assume now approximately 75% of health costs with little control, a bit like in the US, and with the population getting older, they make huge deficits.
    The federal Canadian government increases its debt by 5 billion $ per month as of the summer 2011. Quebec, a province representing about 22% of Canadian GDP adds 10 billion $ a year currently.
    In total, public debt increases between 5 to 6% of Canadian GDP per year at the current rhythm.

    Reply
  11. the thing is, just because germany the uk the usa and japan are more productive, they can loan more, so they are able to have a more bloated state leeching of the productive. hence im an anarchist

    Reply
  12. Greeks according to OAECD are the most hard workers within EU..they work much more than the Germans on a weekly basis…So do the Portuguese…Debt hasnt got to do with lazyness..and Yes Japan and USA have the largest debts in the world..and it doesnt surprise me at all

    Reply

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