The Covid-19 pandemic has added $24 trillion to the global debt mountain over the last year, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said. Government spending has accounted for about half of the increase.

Corporations added $5.4 trillion to the total, while banks and households accounted for $3.9 trillion and $2.6 trillion respectively.

With global debt now totaling a record $281 trillion, the ratio of debt to global GDP has risen 35 percentage points to over 355 percent, the institute’s study shows. The increase in debt is larger than the rise seen during the global financial crisis, in which 2008 and 2009 saw 10-percent and 15-percent debt-to-GDP jumps respectively.

Borrowing levels are expected to run well above pre-pandemic levels in many countries and sectors again this year, supported by still-low interest rates.

“We expect global government debt to increase by another $10 trillion this year and surpass $92 trillion,” the IIF said, adding that slowing down support could prove even more challenging than it was after the financial crisis.

“Political and social pressure could limit governments’ efforts to reduce deficits and debt, jeopardizing their ability to cope with future crises. This could also constrain policy responses to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change and natural capital loss,” it added.

According to the report, rises in debt were particularly sharp in Europe, with non-financial sector debt-to-GDP ratios in France, Spain, and Greece increasing by 50 percent.

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In emerging markets, China saw the biggest rise in debt ratios excluding banks, followed by Turkey, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. South Africa and India recorded the largest increases just in terms of government debt ratios.

“Premature withdrawal of supportive government measures could mean a surge in bankruptcies and a new wave of non-performing loans,” the IIF said.

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