Who Owes Whom? A Handful of Links Relating to International Debt…

Reading the Sunday papers over the last couple of weekends, and the ongoing saga of how much debt the UK is in, I’ve kept asking myself the question “who is the UK government actually in debt to?”

The answer in the simplest form is (I think) the holders of “gilts”, interest bearing bonds sold by the government to whoever’s willing to buy them, such as pension funds or sovereign funds.

But then the quuestion arises: who owns these bonds, and how much are these bond owners in hock to other bond holders and, in the case of sovereign funds, other countries. That is, could we in principle do a great debt cancelling exercise based on doing the sums around: A owes B x and C y; C owes A p and C q; and C owes A l and B m, to see who actually owes whom what if all the debts were settled. (This omits things like different repayment rates, the extent to which countries holding each other’s debt plays a role in mediating exchange rates, and so on.)

I haven’t got very far with this, but I have found a few starting points (I think) as who owes whom in the most general of terms, so I thought I’d just link to them here in case for the sake of convenience and rediscoverability.

My starting point: a BBC report on Who owns the UK’s debt?

From there, I ended up finding loosely related data at:
National Statistics – UK Accounts
UK Debt Management Office Quarterly Review
Bank for International Settlements

Hopefully next weekend I’ll actually get round to building something… (then again, if it’s kite flying weather, maybe not…;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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