Recently Greece and the huge USA federal deficits have highlighted the problem of excessive government debt. The above chart shows gross government debt by country from the IMF.
Korea has essentially no gross government debt (under 2% of GDP for the entire period). At the other end of the spectrum Japan has seen gross government debt rise to 197% (Japan’s 2008 figure is an IMF estimate). The IMF did not have data for Greece (which would likely look very bad) or China (which I would think would be very low – maybe even negative – the government having more assets than debt).
The USA debt stood at 64% in 1990, 71% in 1995, 55% in 2000, 61% in 2005 and 70% in 2008. Most countries are expected to see significant increases in 2009. The IMF sees the USA going to 85% in 2009 and 100% in 2012. They see Germany at 79% in 2009 and 90% in 2012. They See the UK at 69% in 2009 and 94% in 2012. They see Japan at 237% in 2012.
The data here is very similar to the OECD data I provided earlier, Government Debt Compared to GDP 1990 to 2007, though with some notable differences. In the OECD data was still in the best shape, but is seen as having 29% debt to GDP in 2007. The IMF data attempts to avoid issues where some countries have debt of non-federal governments that are hidden when looking just at federal government debt.
Data source: IMF data (for some countries the data is also from that site but at different urls).