Published on Data Blog

Visualizing debt transparency

In the context of rising public debt levels, debt transparency has become of critical importance for several reasons: creditors need to fully assess the debt sustainability of their potential borrowers, citizens need to be able to hold their governments accountable for the debt they take on, and borrowers need to design strategies based on a clear understanding of the level and cost/risk profile of their debt portfolio.

One of the pillars of debt transparency is the dissemination of timely, comprehensive, and accurate data. To get a complete picture of how well countries are doing on these measures, the World Bank has created a heatmap that showcases public debt data dissemination practices in IDA countries. We monitor hundreds of public websites of national authorities to assess countries’ performance along key indicators such as accessibility, coverage, frequency of debt statistics, and the availability of a debt strategy and annual borrowing plan. The heatmap is updated on a semi-annual basis, with the aim of fostering countries’ efforts to improve their dissemination strategies.

Debt Reporting Heatmap

Results of the April 2020 assessment show that almost half of the countries we researched publish a medium-term debt strategy, although less than 10% translate it into their annual borrowing plans. However, gaps remain: in 36% of IDA countries, debt disclosure standards are still very poor, with data are either absent or deemed insufficient or too old to qualify (prior to 2018).

This is the first of a series of tools that the WB is putting forward to shape the debt transparency agenda. The next ones will address the transparency of the domestic debt issuance frameworks and the soundness of the debt management legal frameworks. Stay tuned!


For more tools related to debt management and transparency, explore the World Bank’s Debt and Fiscal Risks Toolkit.


Diego Rivetti

Senior Debt Specialist in the Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment, World Bank

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