Glossary:Government debt

From Statistics Explained

(Redirected from Glossary:National debt)

Government debt, often referred to as national debt or public debt is the sum of external obligations (debts) of the government and public sector agencies.

The external obligations are the debt or outstanding (unpaid) financial liabilities arising from past borrowing. Debt may be owed to foreign or domestic creditors and in the own or another currency; typically, debt financing is in the form of loans or bonds, where the debtor may be either a public (government) or private sector entity.

Government debt can be broken down into:

  • government gross debt, or all financial liabilities, primarily government bills and bonds;
  • government net debt, equal to financial liabilities minus all financial assets; financial assets of the general government sector have a corresponding liability outside that sector; it is, however, at the government's discretion whether to list monetary gold and special drawing rights, financial assets for which there is no counterpart liability, as financial assets.

Related concepts

Statistical data


  • OECD - Glossary of statistical terms: