List of Countries with the Largest Debt

The World Bank maintains the database of Gross External Debt Positions of countries.The top five countries with the largest external debt are as follows:

Country External Debt in Millions(at the end of 2008) Year-Over-Year Change
United States 13,641,807 1.6%
United Kingdom 9,388,012 -19.9%
Germany 5,250,499 1.8%
France 5,001,696 2.4%
Netherlands 2,439,864 -6.1%

The USA is the most debtor country with a total of $13.6 Trillion at the end of 2008.On a year-over-year basis this represents an increase of 1.6%. In order to see the creditors to the US, you can check my earlier post titled Top Ten Creditors to the USA. The  country with the second largest debt is UK.Total external debt of UK stood at $9.3 T. Though this may seem large at first glance, it is actually good since the UK reduced their debt by 19.9% from 2007.All the top five debtor countries are developed rich countries.This is fascinating since these countries are able to borrow so much money to keep their economy moving forward.

The countries with the lowest amount of  debt are:

Country External Debt in Millions(at the end of 2008) Year-Over-Year Change
Armenia 3427 15.1%
Kyrgyz Republic 3467 8.8%
Paraguay 3507 11.7%
Moldova 4125 19.4%
Bolivia 5923 9.1%

All the above countries are small countries in the developing world. Armenia has the lowest debt at $3.4B. However this was an increase of 15.1% from 2007.

Some of the countries have been reducing their external debt.Switzerland the UK reduced the most at nearly 20% from 2007. Other countries that have decreased their debt in 2008 include Australia, Canada,Israel, Egypt, etc.

The list below shows the countries that reduced their debt in 2008:

Country Year-over-Year Change
Korea -0.7%
Egypt -2.2%
Uruguay -3.0%
South Africa -4.8%
Israel -5.1%
Italy -6.0%
Netherlands -6.1%
Canada -7.4%
Australia -7.4%
Hong Kong, China -7.7%
Belgium -14.3%
United Kingdom -19.9%
Switzerland -19.9%

 The countries that increased their external debt in 2008 compared to 2007 are:

Country Year-over-Year Change
Georgia 26.8%
Japan 24.6%
Ukraine 20.4%
Hungary 20.0%
Moldova 19.4%
Malaysia 17.2%
Bulgaria 16.6%
Belarus 15.7%
Slovak Republic 15.6%
Armenia 15.1%
Chile 14.0%
Paraguay 11.7%
India 10.8%
Croatia 10.1%
Kazakhstan 10.1%
Turkey 10.1%

Georgia was the worst with an increase of over 25%.Hungary almost collapsed due to the heavy debt load before it was rescued earlier this year.

The external of a select few countries and the year-over-year change are shown below:

Country External Debt at the end of 2008 Year-over-Year Change
Brazil 262931 8.5%
Estonia 27401 7.9%
Latvia 42054 7.4%
Lithuania 32469 7.3%
Russian Federation 484726 4.0%
Mexico 200393 3.6%
Spain 2313643 0.7%
Hong Kong, China 659931 -7.7%

Data Source: The World Bank 

Latvia had $42B in debt as of 2008.The other Baltic countries of Lithuania and Estonia also have high debt levels. China had nearly $660B debt but that was a reduction of 7.7% from 2007.

Download: List-of-countries-with-their-debt-as-of-2008 (excel file)

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