Debt to GDP Ratio

Updated on April 4, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is the Debt to GDP Ratio?

The debt to GDP ratio is a metric used to compare a country’s debt to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and measures the economy’s financial leverage, i.e., its capability to repay its debt. A country with a high ratio would have difficulty repaying its debt and would not seek debt from its lenders, as there are higher chances of it defaulting.


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The debt to GDP ratio is an important parameter for the government to assess the country’s stand in international trade. Every country marks its place in trade and investments when it has a stable and developing economyDeveloping EconomyA developing economy defines a country with a low human development index, less growth, poor per capita income, and more inclined toward agriculture-based operations rather than industrialization and more.

Key Takeaways

  • The debt to GDP ratio determines an economy’s financial leverage, or its capacity to repay its debt, by comparing a nation’s debt to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • A nation with a high ratio would struggle to pay back its debt and wouldn’t need debt from its lenders because the likelihood of default is higher.
  • The government utilizes this ratio for economic and financial planning. In addition, it allows investors in government bonds to compare debt levels between countries.
  • While an economy is steady and growing, each nation establishes its place in trade and investments. They are in a terrible position on the global market with a bigger percentage. They also begin to lose their marketability on the international stage.

Debt To GDP Ratio Explained

The debt to GDP ratio is the ratio that compares the debt an economy records against its GDP. Having a higher percentage places them poorly in the international market, and they start losing their scope in the global market. Such economies start providing goods and services at a lower cost, making it even more difficult to cope with their debt (for example, Greece).

However, such is not always true for countries like the USA, Japan, Germany, etc. They are strong economies and show growth year on year. Therefore, we must look at such a financial matrix and do trend analysis Trend AnalysisTrend analysis is an analysis of the company's trend by comparing its financial statements to analyze the market trend or analysis of the future based on past performance results, and it is an attempt to make the best decisions based on the results of the analysis more to understand it.

A country with a high debt to GDP ratio will boost its economy and growth and need heavy finances. But, due to a high percentage, it is often unable to raise money from domestic and international markets. Therefore, the countries try to lower their ratio, but it is not an overnight change, and a few years pass by to reduce the rate.

The unrest in this ratio is often seen during an economic recession Economic RecessionEconomic recession is defined as the phase in which economic activities of a country become stagnant, leading to a disturbance in the business cycle and affecting the overall demand-supply balance. read more, wartime, or other lending practices of the nation. It is expressed as a percentage. But can do further dimensional analysis to calculate how one can repay the number of years’ debt.

According to the IMF, in 2019, Japan’s debt to GDP ratio was 234.18%, the highest, followed by Greece at 181.78% and Sudan at 176.02%. The United States was at 109.45%, France at 96.2%, the United Kingdom at 85.92%, India at 67.29%, and China at 54.44%.

As per the records from IMF, below is the graph that shows the debt to GDP Ratio for a few countries for 2018 and 2019.

Debt to GDP Ratio Graph

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Video Explanation of GDP vs GNP


Given below is the formula to calculate the debt to GDP ratio: –

Debt to GDP Ratio = Total Debt of a Country/Total GDP of a Country

Calculation Example

Below are some simple examples to understand this concept in a better manner.

You can download this Debt to GDP Ratio Excel Template here – Debt to GDP Ratio Excel Template

We want to calculate the debt to GDP ratio for five countries (hypothetically). For this, we would need their total debt and total GDP.

Calculation of Debt to GDP Ratio of Country A

Debt to GDP Ratio Example 1
  • =50/75
  • =66.67%

Similarly, we can calculate for the remaining countries.

Debt to GDP Ratio Example 1.1

As we can see, country B has the highest GDP, which means it may have difficulty repaying its debts. It is often assumed that countries with a ratio above 100% have a chance of default, which is not true. In the above example, we can understand that country Z can repay 78.26% of the total debt

How to Use?

To understand the debt to GDP ratio meaning more clearly, it is important to know how it is used.

The government uses this ratio for economic and financial planningFinancial PlanningFinancial planning is a structured approach to understanding your current and future financial goals and then taking the necessary measures to accomplish them. Because this does not begin and end in a specific time frame, it is referred to as an ongoing more. For example, with a high debt-to-GDP percentage, the government may often push more money into the economy by printing new currency notes, issuing foreign currency instruments, providing low-interest rates to banks and insurance sectors, and bringing new opportunities for its public. In addition, it allows investors in government bondsGovernment BondsA government bond is an investment vehicle that allows investors to lend money to the government in return for a steady interest more to compare debt levels between countries.

A study conducted by the World Bank found that if the debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 77% for a long period, it slows economic growth by 1.7% for every percentage point of debt above this level. Moreover, the growth rate will decline by 2% for each additional percentage of debt above 64% for growing economies.

How To Reduce?

There are two ways in which the debt to GDP ratio can be reduced:

  • Minimizing budget deficit figures
  • Increasing the size of the economy

The government tries to take control of the budget deficit by converting it into a budget surplus by keeping the expenditure less than the revenue generated through taxes. However, it does so, while ensuring the growth of the economy is not negatively affected. This is because if reducing the budget deficit triggers a recession, it would become counterproductive.

Thus, the government must be careful while determining how much to do to reduce the ratio should be made.



  • The ratio, to an extent, gives a brief idea about the performance of an economy. However, due to the vast data, it is not possible to get accurate details regarding debt and GDP.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What was the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio 2022?

As of October 2022, the U.S. debt-to-ratio was $48 billion to retain the debt, or 12% of all government spending. Every year for the past ten years, the national debt has grown.

What is the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio?

Russia, in 2021, the estimated national debt level reached about 17.02% of the GDP. Of the countries, it ranked 12th with the lowest national debt.

What is Japan debt-to-GDP ratio?

Japan’s debt estimated for 229.7% of the nominal GDP in September 2022 as compared to the 231.1% ratio of the previous year.

State the debt-to-GDP ratio by country 2022.

The debt-to-GDP ratio by country in 2022 is as follows:
Venezuela — 350%
Japan — 266%
Sudan — 259%
Greece — 206%
Lebanon — 172%
Cabo Verde — 157%
Italy — 156%
Libya — 155%
Portugal — 134%
Singapore — 131%
Bahrain — 128%
United States — 128%

This article has been a guide to what is Debt to GDP Ratio. Here we explain its formula along with its calculation, how to reduce, advantages, and disadvantages. You can learn more about financing from the following articles: –

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