Lower income country debt payments to hit highest level in 25 years

Lower income country debt payments in 2023 will hit the highest level since 1998, according to figures released by Debt Justice today. External debt payments for 91 countries will average at least 16.3% of government revenue in 2023, rising to 16.7% in 2024, an increase of over 150% since 2011.[1]

Higher debt payments are linked to falling public spending.[2] The last time payments were so high, world leaders created a debt relief scheme for the most indebted lower income countries, which led to 60%-80% of their debts being cancelled.[3]

Heidi Chow, Executive Director of Debt Justice said:
“Debt payments are reaching crisis levels in many countries, hindering the ability of governments to provide public services, fight the climate crisis and respond to economic turmoil. There’s no time to waste, we urgently need fast and comprehensive debt relief schemes across all external creditors, including legislation in the UK and New York to make private lenders take part in debt cancellation.”

Mae Buenaventura of the Debt Justice Program of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) said:
“Debt payments drain Southern countries of much needed development financing to protect its citizens from the ever worsening economic and climate crises. Recent developments in Pakistan and Sri Lanka demonstrate how current international debt mechanisms are spectacularly failing to provide the deep, wide, equitable and permanent debt reduction to prevent the deterioration of living conditions by peoples of the South. Without debt cancellation, Southern debts will continue to rise and along with it, the continued hemorrhage of development finance.”

The figures are for 91 countries classified as low or lower middle income by the World Bank, or as a Small Island Developing State by the UN, where data is available. Countries with scheduled external debt payments over 30% of government revenue between 2022-2024 include Sri Lanka, Laos, Pakistan, Zambia and Dominica.

According to the World Bank, for the countries covered in the analysis, of their external debt payments in 2023 and 2024:

  • 46% are to private lenders (not including Chinese private lenders)
  • 30% are to multilateral institutions
  • 12% are to Chinese public and private lenders
  • 12% are to other governments[4]

In March, the UK parliament’s International Development Select Committee called on the UK government to “consult on the introduction of legislation to compel or incentivise participation of private creditors in the Common Framework [the G20’s debt relief scheme]”.[5]

External government debt payments 1998-2024, mean for low income, lower middle income and small islands developing states, % of government revenue



[1] A full methodology and list of countries and their debt payments is below

[2] https://debtjustice.org.uk/press-release/countries-in-debt-crisis-cut-public-spending-in-face-of-soaring-prices

[3] https://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/5-lessons-past-episodes-debt-relief

[4] Calculated by Debt Justice from World Bank International Debt Statistics database

[5] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmselect/cmintdev/146/report.html recommendation 10

Methodology on the figures
The figures on external debt payments as a percentage of government revenue are for 91 countries classified as low or lower middle income by the World Bank, or as a Small Island Developing State by the UN, where data is available. The figures are external government debt payments (which includes both principal and interest) as a percentage of government revenue. The average is a mean unweighted average – i.e. all countries are counted the same, so the figures are not unduly influenced by larger countries. The figures do not include domestic debt payments, which in some countries are a large proportion of overall payments.

The figures for external government debt payments have been calculated primarily from the World Bank’s International Debt Statistics database. The figures for government revenue are calculated from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook (October 2022 edition).

In a few cases, the figures come from IMF Debt Sustainability Assessments, for countries where data is not available in the World Bank or IMF databases (Afghanistan, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Pakistan, South Sudan, Tuvalu), or where we know external debt payments not included in the World Bank database are included in the IMF Debt Sustainability Assessments (Republic of Congo, Malawi and Sierra Leone).

The World Bank’s International Debt Statistics database shows external debt payments on loans contracted by the end of 2021. It therefore does not include payments on loans made in 2022, 2023 or 2024. The figures for 2023 and 2024 in particular are therefore a lower estimate – they are likely to be higher in as much any loans given from 2022 on lead to new payments in 2023 and 2024.

The median average follows the same pattern as the mean, with payments in 2024 at the highest level since 1998 and increasing by 230% between 2011 and 2024 (see graph below). This shows that the increase is due to a general trend across all countries covered, not caused by particular outliers. In a few cases such as Sri Lanka, Zambia and Ghana, governments are in default on some of their external debt. In these cases, the figures show the scale of scheduled payments, but some of these payments are not actually being made.

External government debt payments 1998-2024, median for low income, lower middle income and small islands developing states, % of government revenue


The 91 countries with their payments in 2022, 2023 and 2024, and the average across the three years, are listed below. The full dataset is available at: https://debtjustice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Low-and-lower-income-debt-service.xlsx

Government external debt payments as percentage of government revenue, by country, 2022-2024

CountryWorld Bank income classification202220232024Average 2022-2024
Sri LankaLower middle81.475.078.678.3
Lao PDRLower middle52.965.653.557.3
DominicaUpper middle / SIDS29.457.876.654.6
PakistanLower middle40.046.742.543.0
BhutanLower middle38.931.937.536.1
MongoliaLower middle28.421.351.833.8
AngolaLower middle30.935.733.033.2
DjiboutiLower middle34.
Congo, RepLower middle37.
TunisiaLower middle24.330.132.929.1
GhanaLower middle28.230.526.628.4
MauritaniaLower middle26.129.527.727.8
BeninLower middle23.127.331.127.2
El SalvadorLower middle32.330.917.727.0
Cabo VerdeLower middle / SIDS24.627.325.525.8
JamaicaUpper middle / SIDS25.323.328.125.6
Cote d’IvoireLower middle24.825.925.325.4
MaldivesUpper middle / SIDS36.821.214.024.0
SenegalLower middle25.122.424.023.8
Sierra LeoneLow22.723.924.223.6
CameroonLower middle24.221.819.721.9
South SudanLow26.817.919.521.4
Guinea-BissauLow / SIDS19.420.923.321.2
KenyaLower middle18.915.922.719.2
EgyptLower middle18.817.920.619.1
BelizeUpper middle / SIDS19.819.017.818.9
UkraineLower middle16.816.221.718.3
ComorosLower middle / SIDS8.619.119.215.6
IndonesiaLower middle12.813.620.115.5
MoroccoLower middle14.313.518.315.4
Dominican RepublicUpper middle / SIDS14.013.718.015.3
GrenadaUpper middle / SIDS15.514.914.314.9
NicaraguaLower middle15.011.813.413.4
St Vincent and the GrenadinesUpper middle / SIDS15.112.412.013.2
SamoaLower middle / SIDS12.213.612.612.8
MyanmarLower middle13.412.412.612.8
TanzaniaLower middle14.111.59.711.7
Central African RepublicLow9.010.612.910.8
TajikistanLower middle10.310.811.210.8
HondurasLower middle7.68.315.310.4
Kygryz RepublicLower middle8.910.610.810.1
BoliviaLower middle11.711.27.210.0
CambodiaLower middle9.
BangladeshLower middle8.39.610.09.3
TongaUpper middle / SIDS9.
Burkina FasoLow8.
Papua New GuineaLower middle / SIDS8.
HaitiLower middle / SIDS9.
Congo, DRLow9.
Marshall IslandsUpper middle / SIDS8.
UzbekistanLower middle6.
FijiUpper middle / SIDS7.
LesothoLower middle6.
St LuciaUpper middle / SIDS7.
NigeriaLower middle5.
VanuatuLower middle / SIDS5.
EswatiniLower middle4.
MauritiusUpper middle / SIDS8.
VietnamLower middle6.
Sao Tome and PrincipeLower middle / SIDS5.
PhilippinesLower middle5.
MicronesiaLower middle / SIDS5.
NepalLower middle4.
GuyanaUpper middle / SIDS4.
IndiaLower middle3.
ZimbabweLower middle3.
Timor-LesteLower middle / SIDS2.
Solomon IslandsLower middle / SIDS1.
TuvaluUpper middle / SIDS0.
AlgeriaLower middle0.
IranLower middle0.

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