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What is foreign debt?

Foreign debt, also known as international debt or external debt, refers to the amount of money borrowed by a country from other countries or entities outside its borders. It encompasses obligations to foreign governments, private lenders, and international organizations. In this article, we will delve into the concept of foreign debt, its significance, challenges, and its impact on the borrowing countries' economies.

Exploring Foreign Debt:

Foreign debt represents the borrowing activities of governments, corporations, or private households from foreign entities. It allows countries to raise capital for various purposes, such as financing infrastructure projects, stimulating economic growth, or meeting budgetary requirements. However, excessive reliance on foreign debt can lead to potential risks and challenges.

Risks and Challenges:

Taking on significant foreign debt can have detrimental effects on a country's economy. If a country becomes unable to manage its debt obligations or investors lose confidence in its ability to repay, it may experience severe consequences. In such situations, banks and investors may divest their holdings in the country's currency, causing its value to plummet and leading to hyperinflation. Therefore, it is crucial for countries to carefully manage their foreign debt levels and ensure sustainable borrowing practices.

Trade Deficits and Foreign Debt:

Trade deficits, where a country imports more than it exports, can contribute to the accumulation of foreign debt. When a country relies heavily on borrowing to finance imports, it may face challenges in generating sufficient tax revenue to meet its debt obligations. This can result in the continued growth of the national debt and potential creditworthiness downgrades. It is essential for countries to address trade imbalances and implement policies that support sustainable economic growth.

Domestic vs. Foreign Debt:

Foreign debt can be categorized into domestic debt and external debt. While a significant portion of a country's national debt may be owed domestically, foreign debt plays a critical role in shaping a nation's economic stability. Foreign debt may include debt owed to other countries, international organizations, or private lenders outside the borrowing country's jurisdiction. It is important to consider the tax implications associated with foreign debt, as interest and repayment obligations sent overseas cannot be taxed domestically.

Impact on Developing Economies:

Developing economies often rely on foreign debt to fund infrastructure projects and promote economic development. However, the rising levels of foreign debt in these countries have led to challenges, including slower economic growth and increased vulnerability to debt crises. These challenges can hinder socio-economic progress and exacerbate financial market instability, potentially impacting various sectors within the economy. Foreign debt plays a significant role in shaping the economic landscape of borrowing countries. While it provides avenues for financing growth and development, excessive reliance on foreign debt can lead to potential risks and challenges. It is crucial for countries to adopt prudent borrowing practices, carefully manage their debt levels, and implement policies that promote sustainable economic growth. By striking a balance between borrowing and repayment capabilities, countries can mitigate the adverse effects of foreign debt and foster long-term economic stability.



Foreign Debt is also called International Debt or External debt. It is the amount of debt that is owed by one country to other countries or entities outside of the borrowing country’s borders.

A country may find it easy to raise capital for operations and projects by issuing lots of bonds and taking on lots of debt obligations. If this proves to be unsustainable, or if the sheer amount of debt has investors worried, it can have significant detrimental effects and send an economy spiraling out of control.

If a country defaults or looks like it might, banks and investors will divest their holdings in a country’s currency and send its value plummeting, resulting in hyperinflation. It is just so easy for a government to say “yes” to taking in more money, that it is hard to say “no” to issue more bonds. Companies are scrutinized for debt in a similar way, using calculations such as debt-to-equity ratio.

The US National Debt is now about $19 trillion, and it has caused the US to be downgraded for creditworthiness from an AAA rating to an AA rating. Consequently, many American companies that held significant amounts of Treasury bonds were downgraded as well. As of 2016, almost no American companies hold an AAA rating anymore, while there used to be a significant number of them.

Obviously, foreign debt can become a problem. Some would argue that because we have a trade deficit in which we are importing more than we are exporting, and because this has caused us to have fewer domestic taxpayers, our tax revenue has not been able to keep up with our international debt obligations, and the amount of our National Debt continues to grow.

Most, but not all, of our national debt is foreign debt. About $5 trillion of the $19 trillion debt is owed domestically. This debt service can be taxable to the recipient, which keeps some of the money within national borders. The debt interest and repayment obligations that go oversees cannot be taxed domestically.

What is the Size of our National Debt?
What is Subordinated Debt?

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