Alert On Escalating Public Debt Levels Ahead Of Elections

Global investors warn about soaring public debt levels in US, UK, and emerging markets, anticipating market impacts.

What are the effects of high public debt?

Investors globally are sounding the alarm over soaring public debt levels, cautioning governments against excessive borrowing, especially in the lead-up to elections. This concern is amplified as projections indicate that government debt issuance in the US and the UK is set to hit record highs in the coming year, eclipsing levels seen only during the early stages of the Covid pandemic.

The Surge in Government Borrowing: US And UK In Focus

The US Treasury is expected to issue around $4 trillion in bonds this year, a significant increase from $3 trillion last year and $2.3 trillion in 2018. RBC Capital Markets estimates that net issuance, which accounts for Federal Reserve purchases and maturing debt, will reach $1.6 trillion for the year ending September 2024, nearing the peak levels of the pandemic. Similarly, the UK is on track for its second-highest year of debt sales, trailing only behind the unprecedented issuance of 2020 during the pandemic's early stages. The scale of borrowing, according to Sir Robert Stheeman of the UK's Debt Management Office, cannot be detached from market realities.

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Emerging markets are adding to the global debt surge, with their government debt reaching an all-time high of 68.2% of GDP last year. The Eurozone isn't far behind, with its ten largest countries expected to issue around €1.2 trillion of debt this year, mirroring last year's figures. However, NatWest projects an 18% increase in net issuance to €640 billion, highlighting the growing debt burden in these regions.

Fiscal Policies In the Wake Of Global Elections

The current trend in government borrowing is intricately linked to the political landscape, particularly with significant elections on the horizon. In the US, as the presidential election looms, neither President Joe Biden nor his potential contender, former President Donald Trump, indicate any shift towards fiscal restraint. In the UK, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has modified his borrowing plans for the "green prosperity plan," scaling back the initial £28 billion annual borrowing amid rising concerns over public debt levels.

Screenshot of a debt clock.
Global debt reached a record level of $307 trillion (Source:

Economic Outlook And Global Implications

The economic forecasts are concerning, with the US budget deficit expected to remain between 6.5% and 8% of GDP for the next four years, a stark increase from less than 4% in 2022. Similarly, interest payments on debt are projected to rise from under 3% of GDP in 2022 to 4.5% by 2028. The Institute of International Finance (IIF) warns that the upcoming elections across various regions, coupled with ongoing geopolitical tensions, could lead to increased government borrowing and diminished fiscal discipline, particularly in emerging markets like India, South Africa, and Pakistan. This scenario could further heighten the interest burden for many sovereign debtors, already grappling with high levels.

The Delicate Balance Of Fiscal Policy

As global debt levels continue to rise, the finance industry's warnings highlight the critical need for sustainable fiscal practices. Policymakers face the challenge of balancing electoral promises with the harsh realities of the market. The decisions made in the coming months will be crucial in determining the global economic landscape's stability and sustainability.

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