By P. Lemieux

The Public Debt challenge explains the character, assets, and quantity of the sovereign debt challenge, and analyzes its capability solutions.

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In both Europe and America, then, the debt was not created by the 2007–2009 recession, which merely revealed the depth of the problem. 2 Government Gross Debt as a Proportion of GDP, Selected Countries, 2007 and 2010 Source: OECD (2011c). 38 T H E P U B L I C D E B T P RO B L E M Since the end of 2010, public debt has continued to increase, even if more recent comparative figures were not available at the time of writing. Could it then be argued that the proportion of the public debt caused by the Great Recession is actually higher than the above figures suggest?

L E S S O N S F RO M E U RO P E ( A N D E L S E W H E R E ) 41 A common currency eliminates the foreign exchange risk that stems from changes in the relative prices of different currencies. A currency union, however, is not without problems; it does not by itself solve deep competitiveness and confidence problems. When, say, Germans and Frenchmen used different currencies, the latter’s exchange rate (the price of one currency in terms of another) was, by and large, determined on the foreign exchange market, that is, by the interaction of people who wanted to buy francs with marks and those who wanted to sell francs for marks.

It was soon discovered L E S S O N S F RO M E U RO P E ( A N D E L S E W H E R E ) 35 that the Portuguese sovereign had a debt problem similar to the Greek problem. Not all European states had been unusually prof ligate, nor had they all amassed very large public debts. Denmark, with its 34 percent ratio of public debt to GDP in 2007, seemed secure. Other countries similarly stood below the OECD average of 56 percent (unweighted average, that is, the country average), including Finland, Switzerland, the UK, and the Netherlands.

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