While many countries around the world are struggling with debts and deficits, the countries on this list have been able to keep their obligations low. Many but not all of the countries are rich in natural resources, which may help them keep their debt levels low.
We should give you a heads up, there are many different ways to calculate debt, and this article focuses on public debt. Public debt refers to the amount of debt owed by the government to other parties. This does not include debt that the government owes to itself (government agencies often loan to other government agencies).
So who are the top ten countries with the lowest levels of public debt? The answers might surprise just you.
10. Algeria, Debt: 7.9%
First up on our list is Algeria, a large North African country located along the temperate Mediterranean Sea. Algeria has the world’s 9th largest proven natural gas reserves and 17th largest oil reserves. This has allowed the country to drive economic growth forward without having to rely on loans and debt. The country also scores well in human development indicators, suggesting that the government has been able to put its oil reserves to good use.
9. Russia, Debt: 7.7%
One of the world’s super powers and the world’s largest country in terms of landmass, Russia is rich in natural resources. At number 9, Russia enjoys a public debt equal to only 7.7% of its GDP. Russia has the world’s eighth largest proven oil reserves and second largest natural gas reserves, which have almost certainly helped the country finance its operations. Russia also has a highly diversified economy and is home to many different industries.
8. Equatorial Guinea, Debt: 7.7%
This central Africa country enjoys a public debt of only 7.7% of its national GDP. Like many other countries on the list, the country is rich in natural resources, including oil. These natural resources have allowed the country to achieve a nominal GDP per capita of $23,000 dollars. The country enjoys a public debt equal to only 7.7% of its GDP.
7. Kuwait, Debt: 6%
One of the wealthiest countries in the world, Kuwait is rich in oil. By using its vast oil wealth to fund operations, Kuwait has accrued a public debt equal to only 6% of its GDP. Kuwait has a nominal GDP per capita of nearly $46,000, making it one of the richest countries in the world. Kuwait is now trying to diversify its economy and is looking to become less dependent on oil. Kuwait’s public debt is equal to only 6% of its GDP.
6. Azerbaijan, Debt: 5.9%
A former possession of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan comes in at number 6 with a public debt equal to only 5.9% of its GDP. Like several other countries on this list, Azerbaijan is rich in oil and natural gas resources. As a small nation home to only 9.3 million people, the country has been able to use its natural wealth to fuel growth and government spending. This has helped the nation keep its public debt low, even as it expands investments in the national infrastructure.
5. Estonia, Debt: 5.6%
This Eastern European country comes in next on the list. Estonia was once a satellite state of the Soviet Union and since independence has recorded a strong period of economic growth and expansion. The country has a GDP per capita of just over $22,000 and has been able to manage its economic growth without accruing huge levels of debt. Estonia enjoys a public debt that is equal to only 5.6% of its GDP.
4. Kosovo, Debt: 5.5%
One of the youngest countries in the world, Kosovo was only recognized as an official nation in 2008, when the country declared itself independent. So far 106 nations recognize Kosovo’s independence, including the United States and many members of the EU. Kosovo is one of the poorer countries in Eastern Europe, with a nominal GDP per capita of just over $3,000. The country has been a major recipient of foreign aid, which has allowed it to get by without taking on huge amounts of debt. Kosovo’s public debt is equal to only 5.5% of its GDP.
3. Oman, Debt: 4.1%
The Sultanate of Oman comes in at number 3 with a public debt of only 4.1%. Oman has a large amount of proven oil and natural gas reserves, with its oil reserves estimated to be the 24th largest in the world. With a population of about only 2 million Omani citizens, the country has been able to use these reserves to fund government operations and keep debt levels low.
2. Libya, Debt: 3.5%
Up next is a country that has been dominating international news headlines over the last few years. Oil rich Libya was one of the countries caught up in the Arab Spring, and after a bloody civil war and international intervention, long-ruling strong man Muammar Gaddafi was thrown from power. The country has a public debt equaling only 3.5% of its GDP. Libya has been able to get by without taking on debt due to its rich oil resources. The country has the world’s tenth largest proven oil reserves, so as long as oil prices remain high, the country shouldn’t have to resort to borrowing.
1. Liberia, Debt: 2.6%
Liberia comes in at number one with a public debt of only 2.6%. Liberia is located in Western Africa and was originally formed by freed African slaves from the United States and elsewhere. The country has one of the lowest nominal GDP per capita’s in the world at only $437 dollars per person. The economy is highly dependent on commodities and agriculture and FDI has been flooding into the country as multinational firms look to tap into the country’s rich resources.
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