1887

OECD Economics Department Working Papers

Working papers from the Economics Department of the OECD that cover the full range of the Department’s work including the economic situation, policy analysis and projections; fiscal policy, public expenditure and taxation; and structural issues including ageing, growth and productivity, migration, environment, human capital, housing, trade and investment, labour markets, regulatory reform, competition, health, and other issues.

The views expressed in these papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the OECD or of the governments of its member countries.

English, French

Government debt indicators

Understanding the data

There is no single “best” indicator for analysing general government debt. This paper examines the various issues in defining and measuring debt, and explores other data which could be useful, both within and beyond the general government debt concept, to better track and analyse fiscal risks and sustainability issues. Measures from the broadest view of debt – gross financial liabilities – to the most comprehensive accounting of asset and liability positions – net worth – are all helpful metrics. So, too, are narrower data on specific issues, such as future pension liabilities, government guarantees and debt composition. Better data reporting, including more complete metadata and broader data collection, are needed to allow for an arsenal of comparable debt concepts to better anticipate future fiscal pressures.

English

Keywords: contingent liability, public debt, government guarantee, general government, national accounts, net worth
JEL: E62: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics / Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook / Fiscal Policy; E01: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics / General / Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts; H6: Public Economics / National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
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