17 Jan 2012

Debt injustice in Europe

I've been having a look at the level of Gross External debt for different countries in Europe. The World Bank has a list of tables that you can easily download here

For example, Table C1 shows Gross External Debt (in millions of $) for the last 8 quarters for 67 different countries. The USA comes top with 14.7 trillion dollars. But the UK comes second with a  very respectable 9.8 trillion dollars. Its way ahead of both France and Germany, who can only manage 5.6 trillion dollars each. And as for the other criminal members of the Eurozone, the countries that are currently being crucified by the bond markets and the ratings agency, well their levels of debt are completely dwarfed. For example, Greece which is currently paying 21.14% to borrow money from the bond markets, only has debts of 583 billion. Similarly, Portugal, which has to pay 13.08%, is only endebted to the tune of a trifling 548 billion. Come on you two, surely you can do better?

Table C2 is also very interesting.  It shows how the Gross External Debt is split between
  • General Government Debt
  • Monetary Authorities
  • Banks
  • Others (I presume private debt and debt owed by companies)
  • Dirct Inv. Intercomany (not very sure what that is)
In the UK, 2.7 trillion dollars are owed by Other sectors, compared to only 534.7 billion by General Government.  Interestingly, by comparing the numbers for the first and second quarters in 2011,  you can see that Government debt decreased by about 15 billion. Well done George Osborne! Your austerity program has been bearing its fruits - right?

Unfortunately, between the first and second quarters in 2010, debt in the "Other sector" went up by 93 billion. While the government can claim to be making savings, the UKs citizens and its industry are picking up the tab by getting even further into debt. Brilliant.

And Greece? What is the level of debt for "Other sectors" there?  Answer : 21.9 billion dollars -  just 3.7% of its total debt. That's 123 times less that the private sector debt level in the UK. Sometimes, the injustice of the world is just unbelievable.

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