The most indebted countries in the world (2023)

The nations of the world all strive to provide the best amenities for their citizens at all times. Most times countries undertake large projects that require enormous capital for their construction. Countries would usually source the entire or some of the sum from the debt market. 

One major factor in determining indebted countries is their debt-to-GDP ratio. The debt to GDP ratio is a technique that measures the indebtedness of a country through the comparison of the country’s entire debt with the total gross domestic product of the country. This shows what the country is currently producing and compares the sum with the country’s total debt, which reveals whether the company would be able to pay its debt or not.

This work lists the world’s top 5 most indebted countries.

World’s most indebted countries

RankCountryDebt to GDP ratio (%)
1.Japan237.00
2.Greece177.00
3.Lebanon151.00
4.Italy135.00
5.Portugal117.00

1. Japan

Debt to GDP ratio: 237.00%

Japan is the world’s most indebted country with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 237.00%, the highest in the world. The country has a population of 123,669,116 people as of 2022. Japan has a GDP of $5.040 trillion with a national debt of $9.087 trillion, which accounts for close to double its GDP. 

Japan’s indebtedness began with the global fall of the stock markets in 2014. The Japanese government in a bid to restore the financial system to its usual occurrence offered to bail out funds to banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions.

The government of Japan also provided these companies with low-interest-yielding credits to leverage on and grow. This was the popular Abenomics, which was a brainchild of the former Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. The policies failed, and this saw banks and many financial institutions wound up, consolidate or nationalize. Following these occurrences, in the first quarter of 2017, Japan’s debt had already grown way past its GDP. 

2. Greece

Debt to GDP ratio: 177.00%

The European nation of Greece is the second most indebted country after Japan with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 177.00% as of the 2nd quarter of 2022. Greece has a population of over 10 million people. The country has a GDP of $188.68 billion and a national debt of $379 billion, like Japan, Greece also has almost doubled its entire GDP as its debt.

Greece’s entire debt turmoil began in 2009 when the tourist country had a budget deficit of 15% and announced it may default on the payment of its loan to the European Union (EU). To not trigger a debt crisis in the Eurozone, the European Union offered Greece additional loans, so as not to default on the original debt.

While the support from the EU was ongoing, the EU advised Greece to undertake austerity measures, which saw the European nation overtax its citizens and reduce government spending; instead of assisting Greece’s financial problems, the austerity measures only made the situation worse, throwing Greece and the entire Eurozone into recession. By the end of 2022, Greece is still yet to recover from its financial struggles and has projected the difficulties to end as far as the year 2060.

3. Lebanon

Debt to GDP ratio: 151.00%

Lebanon is the most indebted country in the middle east and the second most indebted in Asia. The country has a population of 5,434,203 people and an economy of $27.32 billion with a national debt of $41.25 billion leaving Lebanon with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 151%. 

Lebanon is currently in a steppe of financial difficulty with the country trying to recover from its already falling financial system. The Lebanon fall began with the piling of debts borrowed by the government of Lebanon to fund the 15-year civil war, which began in 1975 and ended in 1990. this reckless borrowing saw the Lebanese economy drop to an all-time low, with commercial banks and financial institutions winding up.

4. Italy

Debt to GDP ratio: 135.00%

Italy is the 4th indebted nation in the world with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 135.00%. Italy has a population of 58,966,594 people, an economy of $1,891.06 trillion and a national debt of $2.48 trillion. 

Italy’s debt problems have been a major headache for the European Union, with the level and strength of the Italian economy in the Eurozone, risking a recession or a debt crisis can trigger an overall crisis in the zone, which can also extend globally.

With this the European Central Bank has gone on a spending spree, purchasing Italian assets, granting ridiculous loans or offering whatever form of monetary help to pull the Italian nation from its looming debt crises; nonetheless, none of the policies seems to be working. The Italian debt to GDP ratio keeps increasing, experts believe that the number might reach over 200% at the end of the year 2030. 

5. Portugal

Debt to GDP ratio: 117.00%

Portugal is another Eurozone nation on the list with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 117.00%. Portugal has a population of 10,261,040 people and a GDP of $228.36 billion with a national debt of $264 billion.

Portugal’s story follows the Eurozone recession caused by Greece. After the economy of Greece collapsed into a recession, the entire Eurozone economy followed one after the other. Among the worst hit were Portugal and Ireland.

The European Union employed the same tactic it used for Greece, offering additional loans to cater for the existing loans and undertaking severe austerity measures on the country’s economy. The access of Portugal to available European aid to see its economy remain steady caused a spike in the country’s debts.

Conclusion

Loans are vital tools used by countries to fund projects, acquire machinery for war and others. The Eurozone remains the most indebted region in the world with recession and falling economies from Greece fall to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the trying times, it is expected that the Eurozone would offer considerable bailouts to member states going through financial crises.

With failing economies being the major reason countries take loans today, it is believed that the global economy is at its most fragile state and an all-out global market collapse may occur anytime soon.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the debt-to-GDP ratio of the US?

The US is the world’s 11th most indebted country with a ratio of 107%

What is Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio?

Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 36.50%.

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Richard Okoroafor

Richard Okoroafor

Richard is a brilliant legal content writer who doubles as a finance lawyer. He brings his wealth of legal knowledge in corporate commercial transactions to bear, offering the best value that exceeds expectations.

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