Live news updates: Global debt burden drops as inflation rises


Vítor Gaspar, director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department
Vítor Gaspar, director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department, described 2021 as ‘a very unusual year’ © James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

Global debt as a share of output fell by the most in at least 70 years last year, as economies rebounded from their sudden slowdown in 2020 and inflation soared, according to IMF data released on Monday.

The ratio of global public and private debt to gross domestic product fell 10 percentage points in 2021 after surging by 29 points in the previous year, according to data from the IMF’s global debt database published on Monday.

The figures highlight how massive government bailouts to pandemic-stricken economies triggered not only an increase in growth, but global inflation on a scale not seen in decades.

Last year’s fall was the biggest since the start of the IMF’s data series in 1950 and followed the biggest rise on record the previous year. It brought the amount of debt worldwide to 247 per cent of global GDP in 2021, compared with 228 per cent of GDP in 2019, the IMF said.

The decline was caused almost entirely by the rebound in growth and by rising prices. Together, those two factors caused a fall of 9.5 percentage points in the debt to GDP ratios of the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies.

In dollar terms, the total amount of public and private debt in the world rose slightly to an all-time high last year of $235tn, the fund added. In relation to GDP, after a further slight decline this year, the amount of debt is likely to stabilise in 2023 as the global economy slows, the fund said.

Vítor Gaspar, director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department, described 2021 as “a very unusual year”, adding: “As we enter 2023, the world’s prospects are dominated by the need to fight high inflation accompanied by substantially higher real interest rates and diminished risk tolerance, especially for countries with perceived weaker fundamentals.”


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