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Glossary of terms

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Public debt

Public debt measures the cumulative amount outstanding that the government has borrowed to finance deficits, and is a key indicator of the government sector's financial position or government debt.
Public debt is actually sold in credit markets, therefore influences interest rates and private investment decisions.
 
Public debt instruments:
  • Securities issued by the treasury, e.g. bills, notes, bonds.
  • Savings bonds.
  • Special securities, e.g. issued to state and local administrations.
 
Public debt holders:
  • By public is meant all individuals, corporations, state or local administrations, foreign governments and other entities outside the national government.
 
Difference between government debt and deficit:
  • Deficit is the fiscal year difference between government receipts (taxes and other revenues) and outlays (government expenditure). Government deficits and surpluses are the flows that feed government debt.
  • Debt is the stock of accumulated government deficits at a given time.
 
Debt and deficit as structural indicators:
  • Government deficit and debt are key indicators of the government sector's financial position. In the European Union, they are reported to the European Commission in the framework of the Excessive Deficit Procedure. Government deficit and debt also form two of the convergence criteria for the European monetary union (EMU) nation members.
 
(adapted from IMF - International Monetary Fund, Eurostat, United Nations Statistical Division)