Dot chart of the 20 world largest current account surpluses and deficits by nation in 2008. The five best in class are China, with a surplus of 440 billion US$, followed by Germany with 235, Japan with 157, Saudi Arabia with 139, and Russia with 102 billion. The five worst in class are the USA with a deficit of  -477 billion, Italy with -67, Spain with -57, India with -43, and Greece with -36.

The ranking of the 20 best-in-class nations provides examples of different economy management styles. Many nations show positive balances because they have fossil energy that the world craves for and that provides a good rent. Some others, however, have been smart enough to develop capabilities that compensate their non-existent or insufficient natural resources endowment. This is the case of Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, and of course China and other. On the deficit side, one finds countries that, with or without a wealth of resources, live above their means and are unable to balance their current accounts. This comes at a price. The Current Account is a key component of the Balance of Payments. To put it simply, the latter must always balance. It follows that, if a nation has a positive Current Account balance, it can control its way of life and its path to prosperity. On the contrary, if the balance is negative, the nation must "sell" IOUs (I owe you that is to say: debt) to whomever is willing to buy, thus placing itself in a situation of dependency and vulnerability to the potentially harmful decisions made by others. The risk is obvious.

 

2008 Current Account Balance
(Billion US$)

Rank

World Largest Surplus

World Largest Deficit

1China, People's Republic of440United States-477
2Germany235Italy-67
3Japan157Spain-57
4Saudi Arabia139India-43
5Russian Federation102Greece-36
6Norway84Australia-34
7Kuwait71South Africa-21
8Switzerland45Mexico-20
9United Arab Emirates41Brazil-18
10Sweden40United Kingdom-18
11Libya39Romania-17
12Venezuela39France-17
13Malaysia39Portugal-17
14Netherlands38Turkey-16
15Algeria37Poland-15
16Qatar36Pakistan-9
17Hong Kong SAR31Belgium-6
18Singapore27Ukraine-5
19Taiwan Province of China25Ireland-3
20Iran, Islamic Republic of18Bulgaria-2

 

Sources: see IMF.

 

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