10 June 2009

the aussie debt that dare not speak its name

Sterling work from a library, where else?

Australia has always been a net recipient of overseas funds.
Australia’s foreign debt has grown rapidly. Between 1976 and 2008, the level of gross foreign debt increased from $8 billion to $1 072 billion, or from 9 to 95 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Net foreign debt increased from $3 billion to $600 billion, or from 4 to 53 per cent of GDP. (Table 1.)
Gross interest paid overseas averaged around half of one per cent of GDP through the 1960s and most of the 1970s. It then increased rapidly and by 2007–08 was equal to 3.8 per cent of GDP, or its second highest level ever. (Table 2.)
Estimates of Australia’s gross foreign debt are available back to 1901. These show that at 95 per cent of GDP, Australia’s gross foreign debt in 2008 was at its highest level ever. (Table 3.)
The general government and Reserve Bank’s share of gross foreign debt has fallen sharply since the 1980s, as has the share held by private non-financial corporations. At 74 per cent of GDP, the largest holders of debt in 2008 were private financial corporations. (Table 4.)
The proportion of debt denominated in Australian dollars increased from 15 per cent in 1981 to peak at 47 per cent in 1995. In 2008 it was equal to 39 per cent. (Table 5.)
The most important creditor countries for Australia are the United Kingdom and the United States which, in 2007, accounted for 23 and 22 per cent (respectively) of Australia’s gross foreign debt. (Table 6.)
The turnover of foreign debt is rapid with many loans outstanding due within a very short period. In 2008, 37 per cent of loans were due within 90 days. (Table 7.)
Exchange rate movements can have a significant impact on the level of debt. (Table 8.)
Debt accounted for 87 per cent of net investment in 2008; the corresponding figure in 1980 was just 29 per cent. (Table 9.)

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