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Countries without Debt: Myth or Reality?


Table of contents

• Introduction • Debt-to-GDP Ratio: An Indicator of Economic Stability? • Saudi Arabia: An Outlier? • Managing National Debt: Best Practices • 25 Countries with the Lowest Debt-to-GDP Ratios • Myth or Reality: Countries without Debt? • Conclusion


Are countries without debt just a myth? National debt is a significant financial issue that often has severe implications on a country's economy. The debt-to-GDP ratio serves as an indicator of the government's capacity to produce and sell goods to repay present debts. However, several economically stable countries have operated successful economies with high debt to GDP ratios. In 2022, Russia maintained the 15th ranking, with national debt estimated to be 19.6% of its GDP. Strikingly, the top three countries – Brunei, Macau, and Timor-Leste – had national debt of 0% to GDP ratios. Let us delve into the significance of national debt and explore 20 countries that maintained the lowest national debt to GDP ratios in 2022.

Debt-to-GDP Ratio: An Indicator of Economic Stability?

 National debt is a term that is often used interchangeably with government debt and refers to the total amount of money a country owes to its creditors. As it turns out, some countries have significantly higher national debt levels compared to others. In the context of economic stability, the debt-to-GDP ratio is often used as an indicator of a country's ability to pay back its debts. Debt-to-GDP Ratio: An Indicator of Economic Stability? The debt-to-GDP ratio is a measure that compares a country's debt to its economic output. Economists argue that a lower debt-to-GDP ratio is a sign of economic stability since a country's ability to produce and sell goods enables it to repay its debts. However, it's worth noting that some countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios have managed to maintain their stability. For instance, the United States and France have some of the highest ratios but remain economically sound. It's also essential to recognize that a higher debt-to-GDP ratio might sometimes indicate a healthier economy. When the economy is growing strongly, the expected GDP increase can help service existing debts, making debt financing a sustainable way of developing the economy. Overall, while a lower debt-to-GDP ratio is desirable, it's not always a guarantee of economic stability.

Saudi Arabia: An Outlier?

Saudi Arabia: An Outlier? Ah, Saudi Arabia - the land of oil and sand. The purveyor of petroleum, the Sultan of Crude. With a debt-to-GDP ratio of just 30%, it’s definitely an outlier when compared to the rest of the world. But how did they do it? Well, for starters, their economy is heavily reliant on oil - which, as we all know, is quite valuable. In fact, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of crude oil. This has allowed them to maintain a high GDP while avoiding debt. Makes sense, right? Of course, there are other factors at play here. The Saudi Arabian government has pursued a well-structured debt strategy and robust risk management. Their high export rates have also played a significant role in keeping their debt-to-GDP ratio under control. It’s worth noting, though, that this is not necessarily an indicator of a healthy economy. Heavy reliance on a single commodity like oil can be risky in the long run, especially with the increasing shift towards renewable sources of energy. But for now, let’s give Saudi Arabia a round of applause for being the outlier in the room.

Managing National Debt: Best Practices

Managing National Debt: Best Practices Managing national debt is crucial for maintaining economic stability and reducing the risk of financial crises. Robust fiscal policies remain an essential tool in managing debt levels, and governments must have a clear understanding of their revenue sources and spending patterns. Maintaining a stable and diversified revenue base is critical, but so is effective risk management. While it is commonly believed that high debt-to-GDP ratios can harm an economy, debt can also be a necessary tool for stimulating economic growth. Economic growth and inflation can increase a government's debt-carrying capacity, which means that higher debt levels may not always have negative consequences. However, reckless borrowing without a proper plan can lead to financial distress. It's essential to consider the pros and cons of high debt-to-GDP ratios when managing national debt. One advantage is that debt can provide funds for necessary infrastructure, education, and healthcare projects. Additionally, low-interest rates make borrowing more attractive during times of economic expansion. However, high debt levels can leave countries vulnerable to market downturns or rising interest rates, leading to budget cuts or tax hikes. In summary, managing national debt requires careful planning and a deep understanding of the economic situation. Effective risk management, robust fiscal policies, and the ability to balance necessary borrowing with responsible spending are crucial. While a completely debt-free country may seem ideal, it may not be possible or practical in some circumstances. Therefore, managing national debt levels remains a critical challenge for governments worldwide.

25 Countries with the Lowest Debt-to-GDP Ratios

25 Countries with the Lowest Debt-to-GDP Ratios Well, well, well! We have reached the moment we've all been waiting for - the big reveal. You know the countries that we've been talking about so far? The ones with their national debt-to-GDP ratios so low that it's almost like they don't have any debt? Here they are folks, the 25 countries with the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios in all their glory: Ethiopia, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Brunei, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, Macao SAR, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong SAR, Chile, Taiwan, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Trinidad and Tobago, Latvia, Paraguay, San Marino, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Suriname, North Macedonia. We know, we know! Some of these countries are not the first ones that come to mind when we think of economic superpowers. But hey, they're doing something right. And what is that something, you ask? Well, it turns out these countries have been keeping their debt-to-GDP ratios low with the help of robust fiscal policies, strong economic growth, and resilient risk management. Take Denmark, for example - its state debt remains at its lowest levels despite the pandemic due to a budget surplus in 2022, which was then used to pay off a large portion of its borrowing. Believe it or not, inflation also plays a role in a country's debt-carrying capacities. Governments with higher inflation and rapid growth tend to have a better chance of raising revenues and meeting obligations than those without. So, advanced economies like Taiwan and Luxembourg that have high inflation and growth rates can sustain higher ratios of debt to GDP. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are heavily reliant on oil exports and have successfully pursued sustainable, well-structured debt strategies coupled with robust risk management. And then there's Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, who benefited from joining the European Union and the Eurozone. As you can see, maintaining a low debt-to-GDP ratio doesn't require a one-size-fits-all approach. For some countries, it's about diversifying their investors or export markets, while for others, it's about prudent fiscal policies, high economic growth, or even joining regional blocs. It's not easy, but it's definitely possible.

Myth or Reality: Countries without Debt?

Myth or Reality: Countries without Debt? Is it possible for a country to be completely debt-free? Many economists argue that national debt is necessary to fuel economic growth. After all, borrowing allows countries to finance projects that will ultimately contribute to their long-term success. However, some argue that a country could exist without debt in an ideal economic system. While it is highly unlikely that any country could truly be debt-free, there are circumstances under which a country could have a negligible debt-to-GDP ratio. For example, countries with a high export rate like Saudi Arabia can generate enough revenue to cover their expenses without incurring debt. Additionally, countries with strong and robust fiscal policies and a healthy economy could keep their debt-to-GDP ratio low. All in all, while the concept of a debt-free country might sound too good to be true, it remains an ideal that countries can strive for.


In conclusion, the idea of a debt-free country may seem elusive, but it's not impossible. Maintaining low debt levels require careful planning, robust fiscal policies, and sometimes a stroke of luck. However, a country doesn't necessarily need to be debt-free to achieve economic stability. A balance between debt and economic growth is key. With the right practices and circumstances, countries can enjoy the benefits of a healthy economy without carrying the burden of excessive debt. So, let's hope that countries learn from each other to keep a healthy balance and lessen the burden of their future generations.

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