Countries With The Worst Debt (Relative to GNI)

Debt is an unavoidable reality in most countries.
Debt is an unavoidable reality in most countries.

Gross National Income (GNI) is the total income of a country when both domestic and foreign sources of income are consolidated. Gross National Income is also widely regarded as the single most important statistic describing a country’s total annual income. This statistic is used in comparison with the external debt and a high score in this comparison is considered counterproductive and deterrent to the economic development of the country. There are a lot of factors affecting the ratio of a country’s external debt to the GNI. They range from geopolitical to socioeconomic and also some other secondary factors which indirectly affect this ratio.


Bhutan is located between the two modern giants of the developing world - China and India. Bhutan has the highest external debt to GNI ratio at 68.2% in this list and it is not without reasons. The socioeconomics of the country also depends heavily on its foreign relations with its immediate neighbors which are also its largest trade partners. Therefore, most of the aid comes with strings attached in the form of long-term loans which just adds to the woes of the country.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde is an island country comprising of 10 volcanic islands. The country is situated in the central Atlantic Ocean about 350 miles off the coast of Western Africa which leaves it isolated in terms of neighboring states. The trade relations are mostly along the Atlantic trade routes and the small size of the country and its minimal exports portfolio form the basis of its relatively large external debt to GNI ratio of 67.7%. However, this is expected to go down as the country is now regarded as a developing country by the UN rather than a least developed country before 2007.


Grenada is another island state located in the north of South America. It is part of the West Indies in the South Caribbean Sea. Granada is one of the world’s largest exporter of nutmeg and mace. However, its large import bill and an inconsistent geopolitical scene have seen its external debt to GNI ratio climb to 60.9% with a strong chance of climbing further in the future.


Mauritania is an Islamic state in western Africa. The country is home to frequent coups and change of governments making it a very unstable player in the geopolitical scene of the region. These issues and its low GDP have contributed to a high external debt to GNI ratio of 55.1% which is expected to climb further in the future.

Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe is a small island nation in the Gulf of Guinea in the western coast of Central Africa. Following years of political unrest and unstable economy, this nation has become a model of stability in Africa. Its external debt to GNI ratio is 52.5% and is expected to go down as the country continues its path to prosperity.


Dominica is another island in the Caribbean sea which is a major benefactor of economic treaties with the USA. Its external debt to GNI ratio is 46.1% and is expected to go lower in the future.


Serbia is an eastern European country which became an independent republic as recently as 2006. As a result, its external debt to GNI ratio is 43.6% and a stable geopolitical scenario can see the debt value go down in the future.


Samoa is an island state located in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Its external debt to GNI ratio is 40.9%.

El Salvador

Situated in Central America, El Salvador is a corridor state with a large population. Its external debt to GNI ratio is moderately high at 40.9%. The major factors for this are the free trade agreements which are marred by official corruption of the highest order.


Laos is located in South East Asia. It is an underdeveloped state ranking 141 in the Human development index and is also the 29th hungriest nation of the world. This has seen the external debt to GNI ratio climb to 38.3% with no signs of receding.

Countries With The Worst Ratios Of External Debt To GNI

RankCountryShort Term External Debt Relative To GNI
2Cape Verde67.7%
5Sao Tome and Principe52.5%
9El Salvador40.9%

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