28 Jun 2015

European Public Sector Borrowing : €7.8 trillion over 20 years - 86% was used to pay interest charges

A couple of months ago I compiled the full figures for European Public Sector Debt using the latest Eurostat figures. The total at the end of 2014 came to over €12 trillion.

Here's another way of presenting the same figures that makes another vital point. I have simply added up the amount of public sector debt for all the countries in the Eurostat database year by year since for the last 20 years.

In this way it is easy to see how much the debt increased every year, both in millions of Euros, but also as a percentage. As you can see, the amounts borrowed each year are impressive, averaging around €400 billion, but with three years starding out because debt increased by €1 trillion a year  or more in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The total amount of additional debt taken on over that 20 year period adds up to a very impressive €7.8 trillion

In my next post, I will be asking where did this €7.8 trillion come from. But for the time being, let me point out another interesting fact that you can see in the table. In the right hand column, I have added up the interest payments for all the countries in the database. I have already noted that total interest payments total €6.66 trillion over that 20 year period. That means that 86% of the money borrowed by European Governments over the last 20 years was used to pay interest charges.

The other striking fact is that the amount of interest paid every year is incredibly constant. The average is €333 billion, but the range is remarkably small - with a minimum of €294 billion in 2004, and a maximum of €388 billion in 2012.

Now isn't that intriguing? Even when total debt soars by 167%, the markets magically adjust things so that taxpayers pay a roughly constast amount every year.  I'm reminded of the fact that a good parasite will always try to get just the right amount of nutrients from its host - as much as possible without the ill effects being too noticeable.

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