Global debt near all-time high of $300t: IIF
The drop in debt-to-GDP ratio is mostly attributable to a robust pickup in economic activity. However, the recovery has not been strong enough to bring debt ratios below pre-pandemic levels in most cases
The global debt pile is inching closer to an alarming $300 trillion with an increase of $4.8 trillion in second quarter of 2021 after a slight decline in the previous quarter, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said.
“At a fresh all-time high of $296 trillion, total global debt, which includes government, household and corporate and bank debt, is now more than $36 trillion above the pre-pandemic level. However, the global debt-to-GDP ratio declined for the first time since the onset of the pandemic,” the IIF said in its Global Debt Monitor report released on Tuesday.
The drop in debt-to-GDP ratio is mostly attributable to a robust pickup in economic activity. However, the recovery has not been strong enough to bring debt ratios below pre-pandemic levels in most cases.
The rise debts was sharpest in emerging markets, with total debt topping $92 trillion in Q2—up from over $87 trillion in 2020, said Emre Tiftik, IIF’s director of sustainability research.
“If the borrowing continues at this pace, we expect global debt to exceed $300 trillion,” said Tiftik.
Emerging market debt, excluding China, reached a fresh record high of near $36 trillion in Q2 2021—up over $3.0 trillion since the onset of the pandemic. The rise was mainly driven by government borrowing. Brazil, Korea, and Russia witnessed the largest debt buildup while the decline in debt levels was strongest in India, Argentina, and Nigeria, said the IIF report.
Khadija Mahmood, economist at IIF, a co-author of the report, said debt as a share of gross domestic product fell to around 353 per cent in the second quarter, from a record high of 362 per cent in the first three months of this year.
Of the 61 countries the IIF monitored, 51 recorded a decline in debt-to-GDP levels, mostly on the back of a strong rebound in economic activity. But in many cases the recovery had not been strong enough to push debt ratios back below pre-pandemic levels.
Total debt-to-GDP ratios excluding the financial sector are below pre-pandemic levels in just five countries: Mexico, Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, and Lebanon, said the report.
China has seen a steeper rise in its debt levels compared with other countries, while emerging-market debt excluding China rose to a fresh record high at $36 trillion in the second quarter, driven by a rise in government borrowing. The IIF noted that after a slight decline in the first quarter, debt among developed economies -- especially the euro area — rose again in the second quarter.
In the US, debt accumulation of around $490 billion was the slowest since the start of the pandemic, although household debt increased at a record pace.
With housing prices on the rise, global household indebtedness increased by $1.5 trillion in the first six months of 2021 and now stands at some $55 trillion. During the same period, government and corporate debt grew by slightly less, at around $1.3 trillion and $1.2 trillion, respectively.
The IIF noted that almost a third of the countries in its study saw an increase in household debt in the first half.
Total sustainable debt issuance meanwhile has surpassed $800 billion year to date, the IIF said, with global issuance projected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2021.
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