In Box

The Debt Explosion

How the IOUs are stacking up.

The Western world is in deep debt. Increasingly, those with the biggest bills to pay are not the profligate banana republics of old: Wealthy European countries and the United States now owe the most, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of GDP. Many of these countries poured billions in borrowed funds into their economies during the recent recession, and the IOUs are stacking up. Of the world’s largest economies, only China, the world’s top creditor, saw its total debt drop significantly in 2009.

Select countries by 2009 external debt as a percentage of GDP (change since 2008):

Luxembourg: 5,559%  (+3%)

Ireland: 1,346% (+9%)

Britain: 420% (+5%)

United States: 94% (+0.3%)

Mexico: 12% (-5%)

China: 4% (-20%)

Source: CIA World Factbook

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