The biggest debtors

Date posted: September 14, 2011

The size of our national debt and what to do about it are big issues. Are these problems confined to the United States? Or do other countries have issues with their national debt? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well … if there’s any solace, we’re not alone in this problem. If we look at countries debt, and we’re talking about public debt as a percent of the economy in our country, right now for the U.S., it’s around 100 percent. But for Japan, for example, it’s 234 percent; Greece, about 140 percent; Italy. 120; Ireland, 102; and … Singapore, which has been long considered a very strong economy, their debt, public debt as a percent of their economy is about 95 percent.

“So, we’re not alone.

“And the common factor really driving public debt in many of these countries is the aging of the population. As our population ages, more people qualify for public pensions. There’s increased spending on … medical programs for those aging people.

“So, the good news is that … we’re not alone here. This is a common problem. The bad news is that there’s no obvious or painless solution.”

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