The debt of the euro region rose last year to the highest since the start of the single currency as governments increased borrowing to plug budget deficits and fund bailouts of fellow nations crippled by the fiscal crisis.
The debt of the 17 euro nations climbed to 87.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2011 from 85.3 percent the previous year, official European Union figures showed today. That’s the highest since the euro was introduced in 1999. Greece topped the list with debt at 165.3 percent of GDP, while Estonia had the least at 6 percent of GDP.
Italy ended last year with the second-highest debt at 120.1 percent of GDP. Spain’s rose to 68.5 percent from 61.2 percent. Germany posted one of the only declines, with its debt shrinking to 81.2 percent from 83 percent, Eurostat said in the report. Only five euro-region nations -- Estonia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland -- had debt within the euro- region’s limit of 60 percent of GDP.
This leaves indebted European countries in an awfully precarious situation.
On one hand they have limited firepower left with debt levels increasing relative to nominal GDP even as they push austerity measure (always important to remember the debt to GDP ratio will rise as long as debt increases more than GDP and that can be in the form of flat debt and declining GDP). On the other, even if the citizens throw out leaders that favor austerity, for those pro-growth, it is unlikely to help as it doesn't address the cause of the problem... the imbalances between countries with vastly different production capabilities, demographics, beliefs, yet a shared currency.