ICAEW chart of the week – Fastest growing public debt

This week’s chart is perhaps the most interesting, if more complex ones, from our recent report ‘The debt of nations’.


Out of the 12 most indebted countries, it shows the UK has had the greatest growth in general government net debt in proportion to government revenues, up from 0.86 in 2001 to 2.20 times in 2018. This is a concern as the UK will be much less resilient to economic shocks. 

At the other end of the scale, Canada has seen its indebtedness rise more slowly than its government revenues, with net debt going from equivalent to a year’s revenue in 2001 down to 0.59 in 2018. 

While admiring Canada’s fiscal rectitude (albeit supported by a natural resources boom) the continued growth in public debt for the major developed economies raises question about whether this is sustainable in countries such as the US and the UK. 

This is particularly a worry for the US, where general government net debt has increased from 1.05 times government revenue to 2.55 times this year, even before taking in account recent tax cuts and additional spending pledges. 

The news that interest rates in Argentina have just hit 40% should give policy makers in the major developed nations some pause for thought about the risks they are running by borrowing so much.

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