I'm doing some research on international debt policy, and I'd like to be able to compare some statistics I've compiled of external public debt in HIPC (heavily indebted and poor countries) with the same or analogous statistics for a wealthier OECD nation, namely the United States.

The World Bank Databank provides comprehensive data regarding annual debt service payments on external public and publicly guaranteed debt. As I understand it based on the methodologies outlined in the World Bank 2020 International Debt Statistics Handbook, this means both principal and interest payments on debt that is 1) an obligation of a public sector debtor OR a private sector debtor guaranteed for repayment from a public sector entity, and 2) is owed to a foreign entity. But here's the rub - these statistics are only available for low- and middle-income countries. I have searched high and low for comparable statistics from international organizations' datasets (OECD, IMF, etc.) but I just can't seem to find a metric of actual payments on external public debt for the US (not a debt service schedule, IIP, etc.).

The only source I have found that actually disaggregates US debt repayment based on domestic vs. foreign creditors is the BEA's Government Current Receipts and Expenditures datatable: https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=19&step=2#reqid=19&step=2&isuri=1&1921=survey. However, this datatable (as far as I can tell) does not mention any principal repayments on foreign-held debt. What am I missing here? Is the assumption that principal payments are essentially meaningless because the US Treasury expects to be able to perpetually 'roll over' its debt obligations (i.e. sell more securities to pay off the first debt and subsequently re-incurring a second debt the same or similar amount)? Lastly - is there a more detailed dataset available somewhere of US external debt statistics that includes repayment information?

  • $\begingroup$ Most developed countries borrow through long-dated bonds and short-dated bills, and the assumption seems to be that who holds how much and who receives interest is worth reporting, as are changes in these numbers, but repayments and new issues are not really distinguishable from other purchases and sales. $\endgroup$ – Henry Dec 15 '20 at 16:00

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