Poor country debt payments soar to highest level since 2001

  • Jubilee Debt Campaign launches new Debt Data Portal showing:
    • Average developing country external debt payments increased by 115% between 2010 and 2020
    • 52 countries are now in debt crisis
  • Figures do not yet take full account of the impact of the coronavirus crisis

New analysis released today by Jubilee Debt Campaign estimates that developing country debt payments have increased 115% between 2010 and 2020, reaching their highest level since 2001. Average government external debt payments are expected to reach 14.3% of government revenue in 2020, up from 6.7% in 2010.

Debt payments were already rising before coronavirus, and the crisis has caused recessions, lower economic growth and higher interest rates, which are making debt payment burdens even worse. Furthermore, the data compiled from IMF and World Bank sources does not yet take full account of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on government revenue and debt payment levels, with the real figures likely to be significantly worse.

The figures are released as part of a new ‘Debt Data Portal’ produced by Jubilee Debt Campaign which compiles key statistics and analysis on the debts of countries and governments. The latest analysis finds that 52 countries globally are already in debt crisis, meaning that  debt payments are undermining the ability of governments to protect the basic economic and social rights of its citizens. There are 22 more countries in crisis now than in 2018, the last time Jubilee Debt Campaign conducted this analysis.

The updated analysis finds a further 24 countries are at risk of both a public and private debt crisis, 32 at risk of solely a private sector debt crisis, and seven just at risk of public sector debt crisis.

Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:

“Debt burdens were already taking much-needed money away from healthcare and social protection before the Covid-19 crisis hit, and the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Debt payments for poor countries are at the highest level in 20 years. We need urgent action to cancel payments, to reduce debt to a sustainable level, and to rein in irresponsible lending to stop debt crises coming back to haunt us every decade.”

The Debt Data Portal is an easy-to-access online resource which provides civil society organisations, journalists and interested citizens with the most important, up-to-date information on international debt levels and risks. As well as Jubilee Debt Campaign’s latest debt risk analysis, it includes details of:

  • Country-by-country annual external government debt payments, as a percentage of government revenue
  • The extent to which a whole country (public and private sector) is a net financial creditor or debtor to the rest of the world
  • The size of a country’s private external debt
  • How much a country is paying to and earning from the rest of the world each year (its current account balance)
  • IMF debt risk ratings

Together, these measures provide a more accurate picture of the debt situation of a country than the traditionally-used measure of government debt as a percentage of GDP. Government debt to GDP takes no account of the interest rate on the debt, the government revenue available to service debt,  the period the debt is owed over, whether the debt payments involve money leaving the country concerned, and the scale of debt owed by the private sector of a country (as opposed to just the government / public sector).

Examples of country indebtedness on different measures

Country Government debt as a percentage of GDP (2019) Government external debt payments as a percentage of revenue (2020) Size of country’s (public and private sector) net debt with the rest of the world, percentage of GDP (- = debtor, + = creditor) (2019) Jubilee Debt Campaign risk rating
Japan 238% 1.4% +67% No risk identified
UK 86% 3.4% -27% At risk of private debt crisis
Ghana 64% 50.2% -40% In debt crisis
Pakistan 77% 35% -44% In debt crisis

Jubilee Debt Campaign has also launched a guide to understanding and accessing the most important debt information available from international sources. The guide is available in English and French.

The explanation of Jubilee Debt Campaign’s risk analysis is here.

The risk ratings announced today are:

In debt crisis At risk of private and public debt crisis At risk of private debt crisis At risk of public debt crisis
Albania Benin Australia Central African Republic
Angola Burundi Bolivia Comoros
Argentina Democratic Republic of the Congo Bosnia and Herzegovina Ethiopia
Armenia Cote d’Ivoire Brazil Indonesia
The Bahamas Cyprus Bulgaria Kenya
Belarus Guyana Burkina Faso Maldives
Belize Haiti Cambodia Mexico
Bhutan Ireland Colombia
Cabo Verde Kyrgyzstan Croatia
Cameroon Liberia Fiji
Chad Malawi Georgia
Republic of Congo Nepal Guinea-Bissau
Costa Rica Nicaragua Hungary
Djibouti Niger Kazakhstan
Dominica Portugal Latvia
Dominican Republic Samoa Madagascar
Ecuador Sao Tome and Principe Mali
Egypt Serbia Mauritius
El Salvador Seychelles Moldova
Gabon Tajikistan Myanmar
Gambia Tanzania New Zealand
Ghana Uganda Poland
Greece Ukraine Slovakia
Grenada Vanuatu Solomon Islands
Honduras Spain
Jamaica St. Lucia
Jordan Timor-Leste
Laos Togo
Lebanon Turkey
Mauritania UK
Mongolia US
Montenegro Uzbekistan
North Macedonia
Papua New Guinea
Sierra Leone
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
St. Vincent and the Grenadines


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