Global debt has reached new heights according to recent news reports. S&P is out with a new study arguing that the amount of global debt has increased by over 50% since the Great Recession. This number has created understandable worry among a large number of economically-minded individuals who are concerned about the global economy’s ability to handle massive quantities of debt. But there is also concern about what countries do with the debt that they accumulate. Using debt properly, as well as keeping it low, needs to be the main priority of developed nations around the world.
Debt and financial crises
The relationship between debt and financial crises is not direct. It is true that debt at certain levels cannot be sustained. Large interest payments lead to a considerable amount of stress on a country’s economy. Countries do not have the money that they need to pay for infrastructure or social programs. If countries are placed in a difficult position, they may not have the extra cash needed to pay creditors regularly.
There is the looming chance of a default like the one that harmed Greece during the Great Recession. It is possible that countries will have their credit rating downgraded as well. Countries with lower credit ratings will be unable to borrow as cheaply as before and their budgets will take a hit as a result.
Major defaults could certainly cause a worldwide financial crisis. But at the same time, some countries can use small amounts of debt to do an extraordinary amount of good. Debt needs to increase in times of economic depression and hardship. Government debt can then be used to put people back to work and provide a general amount of economic stimulus.
Then, governments need to work hard to pay off at least a portion of that debt in times of economic prosperity. It is clear that much of the world is reaching that period now. International leaders need to be devising taxation and spending plans that can start to reduce the world’s debts and deficits before another recession occurs and they need to rise again.
What needs to happen
Countries have to gain control of their deficits during periods of sustained economic growth such as this one. They should raise taxes on their citizens and, if that is politically impossible, they should step up enforcement and eliminate as many loopholes as possible. Countries around the world are starving for revenue. They have hundreds of billions of dollars stored away in tax shelters that are completely immune from the influence of countries. There are many steps that the nations of the world can take the reduce the influence of these tax havens.
In addition, countries need to look closely at their currency structures. Some currencies like the euro need to become more flexible in order to help smaller European countries pay off their massive deficits. Finally, countries have to be careful with their massive spending projects. They should primarily spend money in order to build up their own countries and the potential of their citizens. Debt should only be taken on to pay for the poor or to rebuild the roads and bridges that countries need to thrive.
Global debt may not be the catalyst to another financial crisis. There were almost seven decades without a major global recession and there is little indication that there will be another one anytime soon. But global debt can still become a major problem for the country and its economy. Global debt could mean the difference between a flourishing global economy and one that is constantly teetering on the brink of budget cuts and collapse.