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Analysing Debt to GDP Ratios: A Global Perspective

Updated: May 22, 2023

This article presents a comprehensive overview of the 25 countries with the highest debt to GDP ratios. The analysis comes at a time when global debt is at a record high of $300 trillion, approximately 349% of global GDP. While the ongoing inflation crisis and reduced economic growth present serious challenges, high inflation has, somewhat paradoxically, helped reduce government debts in 70% of advanced economies between 2020-2022. Understanding Debt to GDP on Veri Knowledge


However, low-income economies are in a precarious situation. Over 60% of low-income and at least 25% of middle-income countries are at risk of debt distress, which can result in devastating social consequences. Sri Lanka, the first Asia-Pacific country to default, is a prime example of a nation trapped in this debt distress cycle.


The current state of debt distress can largely be traced back to the 2020 global pandemic. Despite the economy's brief recovery in 2021, with advanced and global economies experiencing 5.3% and 5.9% growth respectively, the upward trend was short-lived. Factors such as post-lockdown stimulus packages, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and inflation reaching a 27-year high have further burdened the global economy.



Here are the top five:

5. Greece: Despite improvement in primary balances, Greece maintains a debt to GDP ratio of 171%. Structural economic weaknesses and lack of flexibility in monetary policy are the main culprits.

4. Lebanon: High-interest rates and costs in post-war reconstruction have contributed to Lebanon's debt to GDP ratio of 172%.

3. Sudan: Sudan's ratio stands at 182%. However, the IMF and World Bank have recently approved Sudan for debt relief, citing commendable economic reform efforts.

2. Venezuela: With a ratio of 241%, Venezuela is deeply entrenched in an external public debt crisis. The main reasons include political corruption, high oil dependency, and chronic shortages of food and medicine.

1. Japan: With a debt to GDP ratio of 264%, Japan is the country with the highest ratio. Social welfare costs, big spending packages, and a shrinking labor force have all contributed to Japan's debt crisis. The saving grace is that only 7% of the debt is foreign-owned.

While some countries show signs of recovery, the situation overall is complex and the global economy will face significant challenges in the years to come.

South Africa ranked 114th out of 192 countries


As of December 2022, South Africa's debt to GDP ratio is 71.0%. This means that for every $100 of GDP, the government owes $71.0 in debt. This is higher than the average debt to GDP ratio for all countries in the world, which is 64.3%. However, it is lower than the debt to GDP ratios of many other countries, such as Japan (256.8%), Italy (156.8%), and the United States (136.2%).


In terms of where South Africa ranks in the world in terms of debt to GDP, it is currently ranked 114th out of 192 countries. This means that there are 78 countries with a higher debt to GDP ratio than South Africa.


The government of South Africa has taken steps to reduce the country's debt burden, such as increasing taxes and cutting spending. However, it is likely that the debt to GDP ratio will remain high for some time to come, as South Africa is still recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some of the factors that have contributed to South Africa's high debt to GDP ratio:

  • The country's high unemployment rate, which has led to a decline in tax revenue.

  • The country's large informal economy, which makes it difficult to collect taxes.

  • The country's aging population, which will put a strain on government spending on pensions and healthcare.

  • The country's high level of corruption, which has led to a waste of public funds.

The government of South Africa is aware of the need to reduce the country's debt to GDP ratio. However, it is a difficult task, and it will take time to achieve.


Mauritius ranked 106th out of 192 countries

Mauritius's current debt to GDP ratio is 73.4% as of December 2022. This means that for every $100 of GDP, the government owes $73.4 in debt. This is higher than the average debt to GDP ratio for all countries in the world, which is 64.3%. However, it is lower than the debt to GDP ratios of many other countries, such as Japan (256.8%), Italy (156.8%), and the United States (136.2%).

In terms of where Mauritius ranks in the world in terms of debt to GDP, it is currently ranked 106th out of 192 countries. This means that there are 86 countries with a higher debt to GDP ratio than Mauritius.

The government of Mauritius has taken steps to reduce the country's debt burden, such as increasing taxes and cutting spending. However, it is likely that the debt to GDP ratio will remain high for some time to come, as Mauritius is still recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.



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