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national debt:

see debt, publicdebt, public,
indebtedness of a central government expressed in money terms, often referred to as national debt. The debt is computed differently by nearly every nation.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

National Debt


the total indebtedness of the state in outstanding loans and unpaid interest. Based on the sphere in which loans have been floated, national debt is divided into internal and external. According to the term of repayment, a distinction is made between capital debt (indebtedness on which the term of payment has not expired) and current debt (the term of payment expires in the given or following fiscal year).

Under capitalism, the occurrence and growth of the national debt are engendered by the mode of production itself. V. I. Lenin pointed out that national debts, like taxes, are objectively necessary for the maintenance of a bourgeois state (see Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33, p. 12). The indebtedness of the world’s capitalist states attains huge amounts. In the USA by 1970 it totaled $485 billion (including the indebtedness of state and local government bodies), and in Great Britain,£44 billion. In many capitalist countries the national debt increases more rapidly than national income, so that the ratio of the total national debt to national income increases. Whereas in the USA in 1914 the national debt amounted to 3.3 percent of national income, in 1969 it was 63 percent; in Great Britain the corresponding figures are 31.2 and 126.1 percent, respectively. The direct cause of the increase in the national debt is budget deficits. In addition the growth of the national debt entails a direct increase in the state’s obligations because debt obligations are presented annually to the treasury for payment.

In developing countries, the national debt consists primarily of external loans. In 1970 the indebtedness of developing countries had reached $60 billion. In the 1960’s the growth rate of external indebtedness was approximately double that of these countries’ export revenues. The growth of payments on external debts is a heavy burden on the economies of developing countries. For example, the Latin American countries spend about 35 percent of their currency revenues from exports on repayment of external indebtedness

In prerevolutionary Russia, the systematic growth of the national debt was based on the issue of numerous state loans and treasury-guaranteed private loans. As of Jan. 1, 1914, it totaled 8,811,200,000 rubles. After the October Socialist Revolution, in accordance with a decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on Jan. 21 (Feb. 3), 1918, all national debts of the tsarist and Provisional governments were annulled, while the rights of small-scale holders of state securities were preserved.

In socialist countries, the national debt is caused by the necessity of using loans as one of the methods of attracting the population’s monetary resources for net socialist investment and the improvement of the people’s well-being. As of Apr. 1, 1957, when the issue of state loans to the population by subscription was ended and their repayment was deferred for 20 years, the USSR national debt amounted to about 26 billion rubles. The Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU (1971), taking into account the country’s increased economic potential, adopted a decision to redeem ahead of schedule (by six years) the loan bonds remaining in the public’s possession. In 1974–75, 2 billion rubles’ worth of bonds will be redeemed, and in subsequent years the size of payments on bonds will be increased; all bonds will be redeemed by 1990.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

national debt

the total outstanding borrowings of a nation's central government
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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