Global debt tops $255 trillion, set to soar further

Global debt across all sectors rose by more than $10 trillion in 2019, topping $255 trillion, according to the latest report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).

At over 322% of GDP, global debt is now 40 percentage points or $87 trillion higher than at the onset of the 2008 financial crisis.

The IIF said the debt burden is “a sobering realization” as governments worldwide gear up to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The report said with the fiscal response to COVID-19 in full swing, the global debt burden is set to rise dramatically in 2020.

It said gross government debt issuance soared to a record high of over $2.1 trillion last month, more than double the 2017-19 average of $0.9 trillion. 

“As social distancing becomes the norm across most mature economies, global recession looms: a recession which would begin with $87 trillion more in global debt than at the onset of the 2008 financial crisis,” said the IIF report

“Using a simple top-down estimation, if net government borrowing doubles from 2019 levels — and there is a 3% contraction in global economic activity (nominal terms) — the world’s debt pile would surge from 322% of GDP to over 342% this year.”

While non-financial corporate debt has risen over 70% since 2007 to $74 trillion, governments have accounted for the lion’s share of the rise in global debt since 2007 — from less than $35 trillion to $70 trillion in 2019.