The 20 countries with the highest public debt in 2012 in relation to the gross domestic product (GDP)

  Public debt in relation to the GDP
Japan* 237.92%
Greece 158.55%
Jamaica* 146.59%
Lebanon* 139.53%
Italy 126.98%
Eritrea* 125.79%
Portugal* 122.99%
Ireland 117.12%
Grenada 112.57%
Singapore* 111.02%
United States 106.53%
Cap Verde Islands 103.35%
Belgium* 99.6%
Iceland* 99.08%
Sudan* 97.64%
United Kingdom 90.31%
France* 90.29%
St. Kitts and Nevis 89.3%
Antigua and Barbuda 89.15%
Cyprus 86.21%
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The statistic shows the twenty countries with the highest public debt in relation to GDP in 2012. In 2012, Japan ranked first among the countries with the highest public debt levels; it had an estimated debt of around 238 percent of GDP.

Japanese public debt

Public debt, also known as national and government debt, is the debt owed by a nation’s central government. However, as a government draws in much of its income from its population, government debt is an indirect debt on taxpayers. The countries with the highest public debt are unsurprising, and although the United States' debt is much vaster; no nation in the world has a higher public debt in relation to GDP than Japan. The nation’s soaring debt is at around a quadrillion yen, roughly 10.5 trillion US dollars, and larger than the German, French and British economies combined. The Japanese government is currently spending around half of its total tax revenue on servicing its massive debt. Despite this, the yield on 10-year Japanese bonds remains at a surprisingly low level at under 1 percent.

The Japanese have limited options available to them. A possibility could be to default on their debt; this would probably result in a renegotiation of the interest rate and the length of the loan of the principal payments. At present, however, Japan has decided to try and inflate its debt away and have begun to implement the greatest QE experiment attempted by any nation. The Bank of Japan plans to print money to the value of around 60 trillion yen and use it to buy government bonds. The Japanese government is counting on investors to buy up its bonds, despite the fact that the nation plans to almost double its monetary base, effectively halving the purchasing power. For the moment, it seems to be working, but a change in attitudes on the part of the buyers and an increase in interest rates could have catastrophic repercussions for Japan.

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