General govt gross debt equivalent to 84% of GDP

General government gross debt was £1,821.9bn at the end of the financial year ending March 2019, equivalent to 84.0% of the UK’s GDP, according to new data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figure was 24.0 percentage points above the reference value of 60.0% set out in the protocol on the excessive deficit procedure. The ONS announced that general government gross debt first exceeded this 60.0% reference value at the end of the financial year ending March 2010 – when it was 69.1% of GDP.

The figure also represented an increase of £57.4bn since the end of the financial year ending March 2018 – although debt as a percentage of GDP decreased over the same period from 84.6%. The ONS suggested this reduction in the ratio of debt to GDP implied that GDP is currently growing at a greater rate than government debt.

The average general government gross debt across the 28 EU member states at the end of June 2019 by comparison was 80.5% of GDP.

According to the ONS, deficit, or net borrowing, measures the gap between total revenue and total spending – with a positive value indicating borrowing, and a negative value indicating a surplus.

Debt represents the amount the general government owes to UK private sector organisations and overseas institutions – largely a result of government financial liabilities on the bonds and Treasury bills it has issued.

While the deficit represents the difference between total spending and receipts over a period, debt represents the total amount of money owed at a point in time.

The latest data also revealed that general government deficit, or net borrowing, was £38.7bn in the financial year ending March 2019. This was equivalent to 1.8% of GDP and 1.2 percentage points below the reference value of 3.0% that was set out in the protocol on the excessive deficit procedure.

The ONS said this is the third consecutive financial year in which general government deficit has been below the 3.0% reference value.

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