Public debt

In 2017, the Belgian consolidated general government gross debt amounted to 102.0% of gross domestic product. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must decrease. The trend since 2000 is undetermined.

The chart will appear within this DIV.
The chart will appear within this DIV.

Public debt - Belgium - trend assessment

percentage of gross domestic product


National Accounts Institute; Eurostat (2019), Government deficit/surplus, debt and associated data [gov_10dd_edpt1], (consulted on 05/04/2019); Comité d?étude sur le vieillissement (2018), Rapport annuel 2018.

Public debt - Belgium and international comparison

percentage of gross domestic product

//: Average Growth Rates

National Accounts Institute; Eurostat (2019), Government deficit/surplus, debt and associated data [gov_10dd_edpt1], (consulted on 05/04/2019).

Definition: public debt is the total consolidated gross debt of general government in per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Data for Belgium are collected by the National Accounts Institute. To enable a comparison with the other EU Member States, the data are provided by Eurostat.

Goal: there is no goal for this indicator by 2030. However, this indicator must decrease to a sustainable level and converge to a level defined by the European Union (60%).

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 17.13: “Enhance global macroeconomic stability, including through policy coordination and policy coherence”.

The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development contains objective 44: “The indebtedness arising from both social and environmental and economic phenomena will remain on a sustainable footing and not put a burden on future generations” (Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).

The economic theory does not suggest an optimal level of public debt. The concept of ‘sustainability of public finances’ is nonetheless used and defined as “long-term financial stability of public finances (in terms of deficits and debt rate) [...] without imposing rifts or a substantial discontinuity in the conduct of fiscal policy (neutrality across time) and pursuing intergenerational neutrality.” (High Council of Finance, 2007) Sustainable public debt corresponds to a level that secures the sustainability of public finances. However, this level cannot be quantified. In the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union (Official Journal of the European Union, 29/07/1992), the European Union has set a target of 60% of public debt, expressed in per cent of a Member State’s GDP. This goal is not so much a target that has to be reached within a specific time period, but a reference level that first and foremost aims to harmonise the Member States’ public debt. Therefore, this indicator must decrease.

International comparison: in comparison to the EU28 average, the average public debt (in per cent of GDP) in Europa is far below that of Belgium: 80.0% as opposed to 102.0% in 2018 respectively. This difference is observed over the whole analysed period. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with the poorest performance in 2018.

UN indicator: the selected indicator does not correspond to any monitoring indicator for the SDGs but is related to target 17.13. By reducing the public (and private) debt, global macroeconomic stability can be increased and a sustainable economy for future generations can be developed.


  • SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals: United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, document A/RES/70/1.

  • Indicators: United Nations (2017), Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, document A/RES/71/313.

  • UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform: (consulted on 26/04/2019).

  • Sustainable Development Goal indicators website: (consulted on 26/04/2019).

This indicator is also included in another database of the Federal Planning Bureau, additionally providing regional data for Belgium: the indicators of the innovation system.

More information is available in FR (French) and NL (Dutch).