Thursday, 4 November 2010


UPDATE: For more perspective on Greece's debt trajectory, and a more up to date graph as well, please consider this and this post.

Remember this epic graph of Greek debt / GDP which I found on one of our 'orange blogs' some time ago?

Well I think I've got an even better one. Better for two reasons - first, it goes back to 1884, with a few gaps here and there. Second, you can download the figures and read up on the methodology. The data come from a new public debt database compiled by the IMF, and presented in this paper.

The following graph is taken directly from the database, which covers an amazing 174 countries. You can download the data yourselves here.

Admire its beauty dear readers. Also, admire how much of the blame the first two Socialist Governments under our current Prime Minister's father deserve for our current fiscal woes.


  1. I can haz history lessun plz?

    How come WWI saw an increase in public debt and WWII a decrease? Was it all down to the Marshall plan? And what caused that precipitous fall in the beginning of the century?

  2. Surely, I don't think any other state in Europe has paid a heavier inheritance tax on a politician's legacy...

    It also nicely debunks the leftist myth that the Olympic Games exploded Greek public debt. It is also strange that the latest increase doesn't happen until 2008, four years into Karamanlis Jr. rule. How is that explained?

  3. @Orestes: We're missing a lot of data around that time so I wouldn't necessarily say that debt fell during WWII. However, we defaulted in 1932, and hyperinflated our way out of debt during and after WWII as this paper shows: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

    I would also add that during the civil war part of the country was effectively being bankrolled by the USSR. I don't know how much of this was in the form of debt (very little I would guess) but if there was any we obviously defaulted on it after the end of the civil war.

  4. @maledictus: Karamanlis was, as things turned out, a very weak PM. The prospect of general and European elections in quick succession made him lose all resolve for fiscal rectitude and go on a hiring spree.

    But the fact that debt wasn't falling during the good times was his biggest failure. It may be hard to recall now, but when I left Greece in mid-2005 it was still very much a contender.

    Of course, those on the right will also argue that Karamanlis had one the biggest global recessions in history to contend with, which is fair enough. But that's what happens when you max out your credit card - any drop in your income means you're bankrupt.


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