National Debt: Meaning and Types

National or public debt refers to the sum total of debts owed by the government of a country both internally and externally. The debts may or may not be with interest.


Loans or borrowings constitute some of the sources of fund or revenue to the government of a country. Government may use these two instruments; treasury bills (short-term borrowing) and government stock also referred to as development stock (long-term borrowing) in raising funds.

Types of National or Public Debts 

1. Internal Debt

This is the total sum of debts owed to the people, firms and organisations within a country by the government. Internal debts are borrowed and repaid including the interests in local or domestic currency.

2. External Debt 

If the debts are obtained from foreign citizens and other countries by the government of a country, they are called external debts. External loans are obtained and repaid including the interests in foreign currency.


3. Bilateral Debt

This is government to government debt. This kind of debt involves a government obtaining loans from the government of another country.

4. Multilateral Debt 

This is a loan government of a country obtains from multilateral institutions like International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) otherwise known as the World Bank.

5. Short-Term Debt 

This is the debt that arises as a result of borrowings in order to meet immediate financial needs of the government. Short-term debt which last for a very short period of time is incurred by the government with the hope of generating revenue and repaying it within that period of time.

6. Long-Term Debt

This is a debt that is used in financial capital projects meant for development purposes. Long-term debt lasts for a period of years within which it will be paid.

7. Reproductive Debt 

This is a debt incurred in for the purpose of acquiring or building real assets such as hydro-electric projects, iron and steel industry, air and sea ports, express roads, railways etc. The purposes for which reproductive debt is incurred is the one that yields income that will be used for the repayment of its interest and its repayment which reduces its burden. This kind of debt is also called living debt.

8. Dead-Weight Debt 

This is a debt incurred in the areas that are not directly productive. This type of debt is used on many occasions to finance the profligacy or ostentatious consumption of individuals, companies or government. Dead-weight debt is incurred in order to procure war materials, provision of social amenities such as housing, education, free health care etc.


The Author


I am Maduawuchi, the Editor of Nigerian Infopedia. I am a Biochemist, I love God, I love my family and I love my life. Writing is natural to me that's why I love what I do... Captain, Leader, Motivator, Brother and Friend. Saved by Grace alone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *