World debt comparison
Interactive overview of government debt across
The clock is ticking. Every second, it seems, someone in the world takes on
more debt. The idea of a debt clock for an individual nation is familiar to
anyone who has been to Times Square in New York, where the American public
shortfall is revealed. Our clock (updated September 2012) shows the global
figure for almost all government debts in dollar terms.
Does it matter? After all, world governments owe the money to their own
citizens, not to the Martians. But the rising total is important for two
reasons. First, when debt rises faster than economic output (as it has been
doing in recent years), higher government debt implies more state interference
in the economy and higher taxes in the future. Second, debt must be rolled over
at regular intervals. This creates a recurring popularity test for individual
governments, rather as reality TV show contestants face a public phone vote
every week. Fail that vote, as various euro-zone governments have done, and the
country (and its neighbours) can be plunged into crisis.
- This interactive graphic displays gross government debt for the globe.
The clock covers 99% of the world based upon GDP. It uses latest available data
and assumes that the fiscal year ends in December.
- Debt figures are derived from national definitions and therefore may
vary from country to country.
- The clock shows the estimated debt at the point corresponding to the
current date and time in whatever year you are viewing; this is why it increases
even when you view past or future years.
- All data is mapped on modern borders (Montenegro split from Serbia in
2006, Kosovo in 2008. South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011. Data for these
countries are included in their parent nations’ prior to these dates).