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Debt

What Drives Long-Term National Debt Growth?

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What Drives Long-Term National Debt Growth?

What Drives Long-Term National Debt Growth?

With the current 106% debt-to-GDP ratio, there’s no doubt that today’s government debt is high. The last time the United States reached this mark, it was during the aftermath of WWII in the late 1940s.

But despite nearly historic debt levels, it does not seem that the national debt is a key issue for most citizens and groups. What drives this accumulation of debt in the long run, and at what point does the debt level become so high that it becomes an undeniable and critical issue for the country?

Today’s infographic comes from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a NYC-based group that focuses on educating people about the fiscal challenges of growing government debt. The graphic illustrates the main factors driving the debt upwards, as well as the potential impact down the road.

Rising Temperatures

The trouble with debt is that it delays today’s challenges well into the future, making it a tempting short-term solution when other things aren’t working. However, over time, that burden increases steadily, and the situation quickly represents the “frog and boiling water” parable.

So what’s raising the temperature of that water?

Right now, the aging of the Baby Boomers is a key factor, and the amount of people receiving social security benefits will swell from 62 million to 88 million people by 2035. At the same time, Medicare’s hospital trust fund will run out of money by 2029, and the program will only remain solvent until 2034.

Whether it’s the growing enrollment in these programs or the rapidly escalating costs of healthcare itself, more money will be put towards Social Security and healthcare over the coming years.

By about 2045, government spending on major health programs will nearly double in size to greater than 9% of GDP.

Boiling Water

Today, interest on the debt is equal to about 1.4% of GDP.

However, if the projected pace is maintained, it’s anticipated that interest payments could be equal to 6.2% of GDP by 2047 – this is roughly 2x the average annual amount the federal government spends on education, infrastructure, and R&D combined.

As economists will point out, the government controls the monetary supply and can easily “print” money to make these payments. This is absolutely true, but it also creates an array of other problems such as inflation and increasing distrust in the monetary system.

Though this boiling point looms further down the road, having a plan to cool the temperature (or to jump out of the water) could be a prudent one to keep in our back pockets.

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Central Banks

Visualizing the Snowball of Government Debt

See the latest levels of government debt, based on the IMF’s most recent data. Where does your country sit in the snowball?

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Visualizing the Snowball of Government Debt

Over the last five years, markets have pushed concerns about debt under the rug.

While economic growth and record-low interest rates have made it easy to service existing government debt, it’s also created a situation where government debt has grown in to over $63 trillion in absolute terms.

The global economic tide can change fast, and in the event of a recession or rapidly rising interest rates, debt levels could come back into the spotlight very quickly.

The Debt Snowball

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net and it rolls the world’s countries into a “snowball” of government debt, colored and arranged by debt-to-GDP ratios. The data itself comes from the IMF’s most recent October 2018 update.

The structure of the visualization is apt, because debt can accumulate in an unsustainable way if governments are not proactive. This situation can create a vicious cycle, where mounting debt can start hampering growth, making the debt ultimately harder to pay off.

Here are the countries with the most debt on the books:

RankCountryDebt-to-GDP Ratio (2017)
#1Japan237.6%
#2Greece181.8%
#3Lebanon146.8%
#4Italy131.8%
#5Portugal125.7%
#6Sudan121.6%
#7Singapore111.1%
#8United States105.2%
#9Belgium103.4%
#10Egypt103.0%

Note: Small economies (GDP under $10 billion) are excluded in this table, such as Cabo Verde and Barbados

Japan and Greece are the most indebted countries in the world, with debt-to-GDP ratios of 237.6% and 181.8% respectively. Meanwhile, the United States sits in the #8 spot with a 105.2% ratio, and recent Treasury estimates putting the national debt at $22 trillion.

Light Snow

On the opposite spectrum, here are the 10 jurisdictions that have incurred less debt relative to the size of their economies:

RankCountryDebt-to-GDP Ratio (2017)
#1Macao (SAR)0.0%
#2Hong Kong (SAR)0.1%
#3Brunei2.8%
#4Afghanistan7.0%
#5Estonia9.0%
#6Botswana14.0%
#7Russia15.5%
#8Saudi Arabia17.2%
#9DRC18.1%
#10Paraguay19.5%

Note: Small economies (GDP under $10 billion) are excluded in this table, such as Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands

Macao and Hong Kong – both special administrative regions (SARs) in China – have virtually zero debt on the books, while the official country with the lowest debt is Brunei (2.8%).

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Debt

How Technology is Shaping the Future of Consumer Credit

Massive amounts of data, the use of biometrics, the fintech boom, and neural networks are just some trends shaping the future of consumer credit.

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Consumer credit has been constantly evolving for more than 5,000 years, but the reality is that the most drastic changes to the industry came fairly recently.

Modern credit systems are now powered by sophisticated algorithmic credit scoring, the use of trended and alternative data, and innovative fintech applications. While these developments are all interesting in their own right, together they serve as a technological foundation for a much more profound shift in consumer credit in the coming years.

The Future of Consumer Credit

In today’s infographic from Equifax, we look at the cutting edge of consumer credit, including the new technologies and global trends that are shaping the future of how consumers around the world will access credit.

It’s the final piece of our three-part series covering the past, present, and future of credit.

Part 1: The History of Consumer CreditPart 2: Modern CreditPart 3: Future
How Technology is Shaping the Future of Consumer Credit
Part 1: The History of Consumer CreditPart 2: Modern CreditPart 3: Future

The biggest problem that creditors have always faced is well-documented. There is more to a borrower than just their credit score. Yet creditors do not always have a 360 degree view of a consumer’s creditworthiness in order to better assess their overall score.

Called “information asymmetry”, this gap has gotten smaller over the years thanks to advancements in technology and business practices. However, it still persists in particular situations, like when a college student has no credit history, or when a rural farmer in India wants to take out a loan to buy seeds for crops.

But thanks to growing amounts of data – as well as the technology to make use of that data – high levels of information asymmetry may soon be a thing of the past.

Forces Shaping Credit’s Future

Here are some of the major forces that will drive the future of consumer credit, addressing the information asymmetry problem and making a wide variety of credit products available to the public:

1. Growing Data
90% of the data in all of human history has been created in just the last two years.

2. Changing Regulatory Landscape
New international regulations are putting personal data back in the hands of consumers, who can control the personal data they authorize access to.

3. Game-changing Technologies
Machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks are giving companies a way to garner insights from data.

4. Focus on Identity
Authenticating the identity of consumers will become crucial as credit becomes increasingly digital. Blockchain and biometrics could play a role.

5. The Fintech Boom
The democratization of data and tech is allowing small and niche players to come in and offer new, innovative products to consumers.

The Credit Revolution

No one can predict the future, but the above forces are shaping the credit industry to be a very different experience for consumers and businesses. Here are how things could change.

More Data, New Models

Current credit scoring algorithms use logistical regressions to compute scores, but these really max out at using 30-50 variables. In addition, these models can’t “learn” new things like AI can.

However, with new technologies and an unprecedented explosion in data taking place, it means that this noise can be converted into insights that could help increase trust in the credit marketplace. New algorithms will be multivariate, and they will be able to mine, structure, weight, and use this treasure trove of data.

TechnologyDescription
Artificial intelligenceMachine learning can “learn” from massive data sets, and apply these lessons for better scoring.
BayesianModels can update probabilities as more information is available, helping to better predict creditworthiness.
APIsApplication programming interfaces (APIs) make it easier for developers to use technologies, data, and to build new applications.
Neural networksBrain-inspired AI systems designed to replicate the way that humans learn are used for deep learning. This enables the processing of raw, unstructured, and often abstract data for new insights.

Neural networks will be able to look at a billions of data points to find and make sense of extremely rare patterns. They will also be able to explain why a particular decision was made – and at a time where transparency is crucial, this will be key.

Data Will be in the Hands of Consumers

Today, much of consumers’ financial data – such as loan repayment histories – is held almost exclusively by banks and credit agencies.

However, tomorrow points to a very different paradigm: much of the data will be directly in the hands of consumers. In other words, consumers will be able to decide how their data gets used, and for what. In Europe, changes have already been made to transfer control of personal data to the consumer, such as the PSD2, GDPR, and Open Banking (U.K.) initiatives.

Experts see the trend towards open data growing globally, and eventually reaching the United States. Open data will allow consumers to:

  • Regain control of checking, mortgage, loan, and credit card data
  • Give up more information voluntarily to unlock better deals from creditors
  • Grant access to third parties (fintech, apps, etc.) to use this data in new applications and products
  • Gain access to better rates, new lending models, and more

Identity Will Be Just as Important

As transactions become more digital and remote, how lenders verify the identity of borrowers will be just as important as the lending data itself.

Why? Credit is based around trust – and fraud is the biggest risk for lenders.

But fraud an be prevented by new technologies that help detect anomalies and prove a borrower’s identity:

Blockchain
Distributed, tamper-resistant databases can help secure people’s identities from fraudulent activity

Biometrics
Fingerprints, facial recognition, and other biometric identification schemes could help secure identities as well

New Game, New Players

With the vast expansion in types and volume credit data, new technologies, and standardized data in the hands of consumers, there will be a new era of third-party companies and apps that can provide useful and relevant services for consumers.

Here are just some emerging fields in lending:

Emerging fieldsDescription
P2P LoansDoes a bank need to be an intermediary?
With peer-to-peer loans, you are matched to an appropriate lender/borrower.
MicrolendingLending doesn’t always need to be in big amounts, like for a mortgage or auto loan.
Alternative credit scoringPsychometric testing or the use of other data streams can be used to power this less traditional form of lending.
Niche servicesWith an open playing field, companies will fill every gap imaginable.

In the future, consumers may not have to even request credit – it may be automatically allocated to them based on behavior, age, assets, and needs.

Consumers will have more control, and more options than ever before.

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