World Debt Guide:  Owe Dear

The Economist online

Our interactive graphic shows how deeply in hock we all are

THE headlines are all about sovereign debt at the moment. But that is only part of the problem. Debt rose across the rich world during the boom, from consumers maxing out credit cards to financial firms taking on more leverage, and the process of reducing it is still at a very early stage.
The interactive graphic above shows the overall debt levels for a wide range of countries, based on data supplied by the McKinsey Global Institute. In theory there is no maximum level for debt relative to GDP, but Ireland and Iceland (not on this map) found the limit in practice when they hit eight-to-ten times GDP.

The debt is also broken down by sector. Note the huge size of Britain’s banks relative to its economy, and the high level of Spanish corporate debt. Note, too, Japan’s vast amount of government debt, not yet a problem but an obvious reason for jitters over the longer term.

Japan has the dubious distinction of topping our sovereign-debt vulnerability ranking below, which orders countries based on their primary budget balance, their debt-to-GDP ratio and the relationship between the yield on their debt and economic growth (if the former is larger than the latter, the debt burden is getting steadily worse). Britain does badly, too, although a tough austerity programme and the long duration of its outstanding debt protect it from a loss of confidence. Here’s the table: