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Marketplace Scratch Pad

The debt alarm clock

Scott Jagow Sep 17, 2009

The Economist has a new tool for showing the mounting debt of countries around the world — a clock that is updating every few seconds. Tick, tick, tick, BOOM?

Access the clock here. As I’m writing this, it shows the clock at $35,026,768,823,356 worth of global public debt. Of that, almost of a fifth comes from the United States. You can look back over the last 10 years and look forward two years to projected debt. The US figure climbs above $10 trillion by 2011. As a percentage of GDP, it’s 66%.

You can look up any country and see how they compare. Not surprisingly, the debt lies here, in Canada and in Europe. By 2011, the UK’s debt as a percentage of GDP is pegged at 93%.

The Economist writes:

“The worst global economic storm since the 1930s may be beginning to clear, but another cloud already looms on the financial horizon: massive public debt…

Today’s debt surge, unlike the wartime one, will not be temporary. Even after the recession ends, few rich countries will be running budgets tight enough to stop their debt from rising further. Worse, today’s borrowing binge is taking place just before a slow motion budget bust caused by the pension and healthcare costs of a greying population. By 2050 a third of the rich world’s population will be over 60. The demographic bill is likely to be 10 times bigger than the fiscal cost of the financial crisis.”

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