31 Jul 2012

Interest charges on government debt - at least $952 billion a year

(Note added 2nd August : I've just revised the tables to include some extra data).

A couple of days ago I used the World Bank's dataset to compile tables giving the amount that gets paid by about 100 different governments to the banks in the form of interest charges. I used the numbers for the interest charges as a percentage of government revenue. The world average for 2009 was 5.6% - meaning that 5.6% of all government revenue from taxes and other sources is used to pay interest payments to banks for lending money that they create out of thin air.

The World Bank also has a data set where it provides numbers for interest charges in Local Currency Units. If you want to find the numbers yourself, go to the website, select all the 214 countries, select the years 1990-2010 and the series "Interest Payments (current LCU)". It's in the section on "Public Sector", under the subheading "Government Finance". The World Bank could have made things easy by also providing the numbers in dollars, but that would have made it too easy to seen the extent of the fraud. But they do separately provide numbers for the "Official exchange rate (LCU per US$, period average)" - you can find it under "Financial Sector" with the subheading "Exchange rates and pricing". By combining the two datasets I have been able to compile tables for the level of interest payments for each country in dollars (although I had to add the euro exchange rates by hand, because the World Bank figures didn't include those!).

I've made a list of the 147 countries for which numbers are available in order of the average amount of interest charges that their governments paid each year. There are lots of holes in the dataset - there's no data before 1990, and for many countries, there are only a few years for which the numbers exist. And for 66 countries, there are no data points at all. For example, the list with no information at all includes Cuba, Gabon, Haiti, Iraq, Leichtenstein, Saudi Arabia,  Somalia, Sweden(!!), Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. I've provided the number of years for which the World Bank provides data for each country in a separate column.

 But, nevertheless, I was able to compile numbers for the total amount of recorded interest payments (over 11.1 trillion), as well as an estimate of how much gets paid per year - $952 billion. That's right. Every year, the banks charge the worlds governments $952 billion in interest for lending money that they didn't have to lend, and that they just created out of thin air.

Here are the details

The USA wins since they paid an average of $258.7 billion a year over the 10 years for which the World bank provides numbers. Japan comes next with nearly $91 billion, followed by Italy ($68.8 billion). Germany, the UK and Franceall pay around $44 billion a year.

The fact that Zimbabwe comes in 4th seems incredible. It may be an error in the World Bank figures. But they really do claim that the country paid over 4 billion in "Local Currency Units" in the 8 years between between 1990 and 1997, and that at the time the World bank gave the official exchange rate at 0.02 Zimbabwe units per dollar.... It could be a mistake, but it's not inconceivable that some clever financiers managed to come up with a scheme to extract $490 billion from Zimbabwe's government.

Just a reminder. These interest charges are TOTALLY UNJUSTIFIABLE. Governments should be creating their own money supplies INTEREST FREE via central banks under public control. The amount of money created should be keep under strict control (unlike the present system where the commercial banks create essentially as much money as they want). And the money should be spent into the economy to pay for projects that are directly in the public interest, unlike the current system where newly created money is only used to maximise bank profits.

Oh, and by the way, if anyone in the banking sector would like to tell us what they did with the $10 trillion they have effectively stolen, do leave a comment. My guess is that is constitutes a substantial portion of the $21 trillion currently stashed away in private accounts in tax havens.

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