I've not been able to find any states that don't have debt to other states. This, to me at least, seems really strange. Are there any nation states that are not in debt to other states, if so which ones, and if not why can't everyone just settle the debts?

(Wasn't sure if I should ask this on the Politics Stack Exchange or here, please let me know if this is out of scope and I'll ask there.)

  • $\begingroup$ I think this question probably answers your question: economics.stackexchange.com/q/46/119 $\endgroup$
    – Corvus
    Jan 2, 2015 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ Although you also ask about state to state debt. That could be a bit different. Most government debt is privately owned. There may be some countries where none of their debt is owned by another state treasury, this would be quite hard to determine, and I can't think of any economic significance to that. $\endgroup$
    – Corvus
    Jan 2, 2015 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean American states or all world countries? $\endgroup$
    – Thorst
    Jan 2, 2015 at 9:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Soccerman I'm guessing you are American to be so heavily primed for state = us state :) it's tagged international twice and he says nation state in sentence 3. My money is on he means countries :) $\endgroup$
    – Corvus
    Jan 2, 2015 at 10:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Actually European :), I was just confused since he said he could not find states that did not have debt, when it is easy to do a google search and see that there are countries that dont :) $\endgroup$
    – Thorst
    Jan 2, 2015 at 10:06

2 Answers 2


The classic answer here would be Libya and Brunei, but I think Libya now has debt.

Brunei is a strange case in that it uses a joint currency with Singapore dollar, controlled by the monetary authority of Singapore, so in effect you can use Singapore debt as a substitute for Brunei dollar investment.

Not having any debt, and having a free currency is generally a bad idea, since you cannot control interest rates. Furthermore, if you can afford not to have debt, then people will be begging to lend to you at such favorable rates it would be foolish not to borrow a bit.

On the other hand there are many counties with no net debt. Singapore and Norway don't need to borrow but do so to provide bonds for the financial markets. They then invest the money they borrow. Norway can borrow so cheaply they can buy US treasuries and make a profit.


The World Bank: External debt stocks (% of GNI)

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There're two types of countries that have little debt: resource-rich economies (Turkmenistan, Iran) and those who can't borrow (Afghanistan, Haiti).


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