Global debt has reached a staggering $253 trillion. This is a disaster waiting to happen, as the world’s total debt surged by some $9 trillion in the first three quarters of 2019, according to data from the Institute of International Finance. That’s a terrifying 322% of its GDP; and a record high.
As Axios points out, in times of economic strength, economists suggest that countries pare back their debt burdens and pay it down to protect against future unrest and downturn. But even though we are apparently living in great economic time, the United States and the overwhelming majority of the world have done just the opposite. Horrifyingly, 2019 saw the world’s debt-to-GDP ratio rise at the fastest rate since 2016.
Conversely, global growth fell to its slowest pace since the 2008–2009 financial crisis, showing diminishing returns for the increasingly large debt pile. This is simply put, a disaster waiting to happen. Anemic economic growth could also be caused by the alarming levels of debt taken on, said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. “The effect may be a subtle crisis over time,” she said.
All signs are pointing to the debt binging continuing for the foreseeable future, with the U.S. leading the way. Government debt grew at its fastest annual pace since 2009 and the U.S. government led the way in debt accumulation last year, with government debt-to-GDP rising to an all-time high of 102% of GDP, IIF finds.
Mature markets like the U.S., eurozone, and Japan ratcheted up their government debt levels last year while emerging markets like China, India, and Latin America saw the sharpest increase in non-financial corporate debt. China’s debt notably rose to 310% of GDP, despite the nation’s drive to deliver and clamp down on runaway borrowing.
IIF estimates that total global debt will exceed $257 trillion in the first quarter of 2020. This all bodes ill for the “booming” economy we live under.