Mercator Dejection

The Economist maps the world's burgeoning debt.

A little doom and gloom before the weekend.

The Economist has drawn up an interactive map of approximate world debt, year by year, and country by country, since 1999.

As you would expect, the overall total global debt ($39 trillion) is rather large, and rising.

There's something perturbing about seeing Ireland, the UK and Iceland suddenly swamped in red by 2008. It's also salutory to remember that Greece's debt has been over 100 percent of it's GDP for ten years now.

The country that remains most constant is (Red) China, whose unwavering commitment to keep the value of the renminbi low by hoovering up US treasuries may be about to spark an intercontinental currency war. After all, China and the US can't keep propping each other up like two drunks forever.

Before you atart seeing red, remember folks, a lot of soveriegn debt (especially in the UK) is at least in part a bag of self-loaned IOUs, and there's not necessarily anything wrong with running deficits in hard times and paying them back in the good (a learning to Alan Johnson, and a fail for Gordon Brown).

More hearteningly, scrolling through debt as percentage of GDP over the years shows Africa (Sudan excepted) gradually emerging from the red.

I wonder what it will look like next year?

 

Getty
Show Hide image

How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496