Finance The 23 countries with the highest levels of debt to GDP

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Debt-to-GDP ratios around the world have increased in recent years as governments take advantage of historically low interest rates.

Fans of Portugal react as they watch the Euro 2016 soccer match between Portugal and Poland at a public screening in downtown Lisbon, Portugal, June 30, 2016. play

Fans of Portugal react as they watch the Euro 2016 soccer match between Portugal and Poland at a public screening in downtown Lisbon, Portugal, June 30, 2016.

(Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

Debt is a function and a fixture of any working economy. Governments borrow to fund spending on things like roads, hospitals, and schools, as well as to fund promises like tax cuts.

Debt-to-GDP ratios around the world have increased in recent years as governments take advantage of historically low interest rates to pile up cheap debt before rates inevitably begin to rise.

Borrowing is a good thing for a working economy, but unchecked borrowing can be a bad thing, especially in an economic downturn. Even cheap debt can become unaffordable if a country has too much of it and output begins to slow.

The level of gross government debt as a percentage of GDP can indicate how able a country is to pay back debts without incurring further debt. Basically the lower the debt-to-GDP ratio the better.

The CIA's annual World Factbook, a huge and pretty comprehensive compilation of data and statistics from all over the world, includes figures on nations' debt-to-GDP ratios from around the world.

Numbers are given as a percentage of GDP, so if a country has a GDP of £100 billion and a gross debt of £110 billion, it has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 110%. Here are the 23 nations with the highest debt-to-GDP ratio:

23. Brazil — 89.4%: In the midst of a crippling recession and facing down several huge political corruption scandals, Brazil has seen its debt-to-GDP ratio jump higher in recent years.

A man with his face painted with the Brazilian flag marches with anti-government protesters along Avenida Paulista on March 15, 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. play

A man with his face painted with the Brazilian flag marches with anti-government protesters along Avenida Paulista on March 15, 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

(Getty)


22. Sao Tome and Principe — 89.5%: The island nation, which has less than 200,000 citizens and a GDP of $350 million, is at "high risk of debt distress" according to IMF, and must implement austerity measures to combat this.

Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China April 14, 2017. play

Sao Tome and Principe Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China April 14, 2017.

(Kyodo News/Yohei Kanasashi)


21. Jordan — 90.6%: A 2016 World Economic Forum report said that "addressing macroeconomic challenges will be key to freeing up public funding for competitiveness-enhancing investment" in Jordan. Trade and investment suffer thanks to Jordan's proximity to nations like Iraq and Syria.

21. Jordan — 90.6%: A 2016 World Economic Forum report said that "addressing macroeconomic challenges will be key to freeing up public funding for competitiveness-enhancing investment" in Jordan. Trade and investment suffer thanks to Jordan's proximity to nations like Iraq and Syria. play

21. Jordan — 90.6%: A 2016 World Economic Forum report said that "addressing macroeconomic challenges will be key to freeing up public funding for competitiveness-enhancing investment" in Jordan. Trade and investment suffer thanks to Jordan's proximity to nations like Iraq and Syria.

(Courtesy Erica Levine)


T19. United Kingdom — 92.2%: The UK's government debt is a political football used by opposition parties to attack the government's economic record. Debt has increased significantly in recent years, although the deficit has reduced after 7 years of austerity.

T19. United Kingdom — 92.2%: The UK's government debt is a political football used by opposition parties to attack the government's economic record. Debt has increased significantly in recent years, although the deficit has reduced after 7 years of austerity. play

T19. United Kingdom — 92.2%: The UK's government debt is a political football used by opposition parties to attack the government's economic record. Debt has increased significantly in recent years, although the deficit has reduced after 7 years of austerity.

(REUTERS/Bobby Yip)


T19. Yemen — 92.2%: Alongside its huge debt burden, Yemen is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, with what the UN calls "the world's worst cholera outbreak" sweeping through the country, impacting some 200,000 people. It is also engaged in conflict with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Protesters chant during Arab Spring protests in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, in May 2011. play

Protesters chant during Arab Spring protests in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, in May 2011.

(Flickr/Sallam)


18. Egypt — 92.6%: Egypt's debt has started to moderate after increasing rapidly in the years after the financial crisis and during the Arab Spring.

Tourists ride on camels next to the Pyramid of Khufu on the Great Pyramids of Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, April 27, 2015. play

Tourists ride on camels next to the Pyramid of Khufu on the Great Pyramids of Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, April 27, 2015.

(REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)


17. France — 96.5%: France's government debt to GDP ratio has widened this year as it struggles with weak productivity and wages.

Performers with French flags dance before the start of the Euro 2012 quarter-final soccer match between Spain and France at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, June 23, 2012. play

Performers with French flags dance before the start of the Euro 2012 quarter-final soccer match between Spain and France at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, June 23, 2012.

(REUTERS/Charles Platiau)


16. Canada — 98.8%: Canada is significantly more indebted on a debt-to-GDP basis than its southern neighbour, the United States of America.

16. Canada — 98.8%: Canada is significantly more indebted on a debt-to-GDP basis than its southern neighbour, the United States of America. play

16. Canada — 98.8%: Canada is significantly more indebted on a debt-to-GDP basis than its southern neighbour, the United States of America.

(Julian Finney/Getty Images)


15. Spain — 99.6%: A victim of the eurozone debt crisis, Spain's economy is battling chronically high unemployment — particularly among the country's youth.

An activist of global anti-poverty charity Oxfam takes off a mask depicting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as she takes part in a protest as part of a campaign to denounce the non-fulfillment of the Spanish government's commitments to welcome refugees, in downtown Malaga, southern Spain June 20, 2017. play

An activist of global anti-poverty charity Oxfam takes off a mask depicting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as she takes part in a protest as part of a campaign to denounce the non-fulfillment of the Spanish government's commitments to welcome refugees, in downtown Malaga, southern Spain June 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


14. Mozambique — 100.3%: Mozambique has hit headlines in recent weeks after it emerged than around $500 million of a $2 billion loan given to the country was unaccounted for.

Mozambique's national flag is seen in Maputo November 21, 2005. play

Mozambique's national flag is seen in Maputo November 21, 2005.

(Thomson Reuters)


13. Cyprus — 104.6%: Highly exposed to Greece during the eurozone debt crisis, it is unsurprising that Cyprus has a huge debt burden. Things have been made worse by the downgrading of its credit rating to "junk" status, making it more expensive to borrow.

13. Cyprus — 104.6%: Highly exposed to Greece during the eurozone debt crisis, it is unsurprising that Cyprus has a huge debt burden. Things have been made worse by the downgrading of its credit rating to "junk" status, making it more expensive to borrow. play

13. Cyprus — 104.6%: Highly exposed to Greece during the eurozone debt crisis, it is unsurprising that Cyprus has a huge debt burden. Things have been made worse by the downgrading of its credit rating to "junk" status, making it more expensive to borrow.

(Getty/Ryan Pierse)


12. Belgium — 106.7%: The country is home some of the most powerful people in the world, with key EU headquarters in Brussels, but the nation suffers from high government debt levels as it battles with restrictive labour and tax regulations.

12. Belgium — 106.7%: The country is home some of the most powerful people in the world, with key EU headquarters in Brussels, but the nation suffers from high government debt levels as it battles with restrictive labour and tax regulations. play

12. Belgium — 106.7%: The country is home some of the most powerful people in the world, with key EU headquarters in Brussels, but the nation suffers from high government debt levels as it battles with restrictive labour and tax regulations.

(Getty Images)


11. Barbados — 108.9%: The tax-haven nation is the wealthiest and most developed country in the eastern Caribbean, but its growth prospects look weak after the introduction of austerity measures to combat the effects of the credit crisis.

A Barbadian athlete celebrates victory at the 2015 Pan Am Games play

A Barbadian athlete celebrates victory at the 2015 Pan Am Games

(Reuters)


10. Grenada — 110%: The Caribbean island nation has built an unsustainable debt pile in recent years, and has been forced to default on repayments several times as a result.

10. Grenada — 110%: The Caribbean island nation has built an unsustainable debt pile in recent years, and has been forced to default on repayments several times as a result. play

10. Grenada — 110%: The Caribbean island nation has built an unsustainable debt pile in recent years, and has been forced to default on repayments several times as a result.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)


9. Singapore — 110.5%: In an attempt to tackle its chronically high debts, the government is now trying to find new ways to grow the economy and raise productivity.

9. Singapore — 110.5%: In an attempt to tackle its chronically high debts, the government is now trying to find new ways to grow the economy and raise productivity. play

9. Singapore — 110.5%: In an attempt to tackle its chronically high debts, the government is now trying to find new ways to grow the economy and raise productivity.

(tatsmis / Shutterstock)


8. Cape Verde — 116.8%: The tiny Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Atlantic has seen its debt burden grow rapidly in recent years, with the debt-to-GDP ratio jumping from 70% in 2010.

8. Cape Verde — 116.8%: The tiny Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Atlantic has seen its debt burden grow rapidly in recent years, with the debt-to-GDP ratio jumping from 70% in 2010. play

8. Cape Verde — 116.8%: The tiny Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Atlantic has seen its debt burden grow rapidly in recent years, with the debt-to-GDP ratio jumping from 70% in 2010.

(Shutterstock)


7. Eritrea — 119.8%: The tiny African nation is one of the world's least developed nations, and has a GDP of just over $2.6 billion. "Eritrea has suffered from chronic fiscal deficits since regional insecurity heightened in 1998," the World Bank notes, adding that this "has led to a highly unsustainable public debt burden."

An Eritrean demonstrator waves his national flag whist taking part in a demonstration on Whitehall on April 30, 2012 in London, England. play

An Eritrean demonstrator waves his national flag whist taking part in a demonstration on Whitehall on April 30, 2012 in London, England.

(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


6. Portugal — 126.2%: Portugal exited its own bailout programme in the middle of 2014, but it is still trying to recover from the impacts of the eurozone debt crisis.

play

(Rafael Marchante/Reuters)


5. Jamaica — 130.1%: The Caribbean island is one of the world's most indebted countries after decades of heavy borrowing. It has frequently received loans from the IMF to help it make repayments on debts, which has perpetuated its problems.

5. Jamaica — 130.1%: The Caribbean island is one of the world's most indebted countries after decades of heavy borrowing. It has frequently received loans from the IMF to help it make repayments on debts, which has perpetuated its problems. play

5. Jamaica — 130.1%: The Caribbean island is one of the world's most indebted countries after decades of heavy borrowing. It has frequently received loans from the IMF to help it make repayments on debts, which has perpetuated its problems.

(Ian Walton/Getty)


T3. Italy — 132.5%: Italy is the eurozone's second most indebted country, and probably the single currency bloc's biggest economic risk. The country's financial system is in turmoil, with two banks bailed in this week. If the system were to blow up, things would be much worse than what we saw in Greece.

The Italian air force aerobatic team, "Frecce Tricolori" (Tri-colour Arrows), leave trails of green, white and red smoke, the colours of the national flag, during a flypast over Rome November 9, 2008. play

The Italian air force aerobatic team, "Frecce Tricolori" (Tri-colour Arrows), leave trails of green, white and red smoke, the colours of the national flag, during a flypast over Rome November 9, 2008.

(REUTERS/Chris Helgren)


T3. Lebanon — 132.5%: “Lebanon emerges as a prime suspect for facing a debt crisis based on its weak solvency metrics. Standard debt-sustainability models, derived rules of thumb and other countries’ experience suggest that these are early signs of a debt crisis,” Carla Slim, an economist at Standard Chartered told the FT earlier in June.

T3. Lebanon — 132.5%: “Lebanon emerges as a prime suspect for facing a debt crisis based on its weak solvency metrics. Standard debt-sustainability models, derived rules of thumb and other countries’ experience suggest that these are early signs of a debt crisis,” Carla Slim, an economist at Standard Chartered told the FT earlier in June. play

T3. Lebanon — 132.5%: “Lebanon emerges as a prime suspect for facing a debt crisis based on its weak solvency metrics. Standard debt-sustainability models, derived rules of thumb and other countries’ experience suggest that these are early signs of a debt crisis,” Carla Slim, an economist at Standard Chartered told the FT earlier in June.

(Marco di Lauro/Getty)


2. Greece — 181.6%: The country is continuing to suffer since the sovereign debt crisis of 2010. It is still struggling to make debt repayments after being bailed out continually by international creditors and is still in full force of a stringent austerity drive.

A Greek national flag flutters next to a statue of ancient Greek goddess Athena, in Athens May 21, 2015. play

A Greek national flag flutters next to a statue of ancient Greek goddess Athena, in Athens May 21, 2015.

(Reuters)


1. Japan — 234.7%: Easily the highest ratio of debt-to-GDP goes to Japan, which has seen its economy face a rapidly aging population and glacially slow rates of growth thanks to weak productivity in recent years.

1. Japan — 234.7%: Easily the highest ratio of debt-to-GDP goes to Japan, which has seen its economy face a rapidly aging population and glacially slow rates of growth thanks to weak productivity in recent years. play

1. Japan — 234.7%: Easily the highest ratio of debt-to-GDP goes to Japan, which has seen its economy face a rapidly aging population and glacially slow rates of growth thanks to weak productivity in recent years.

(REUTERS/Issei Kato)


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