Ireland reports debt of €223bn – €42,000 per person

Ireland’s gross public debt stood at an estimated €223 billion at the end of 2023, down from €236 billion at end-2021 but around €20 billion higher than just before the pandemic.

Ireland’s Department of Finance said that at just over €42,000 per person, Ireland still has one of the highest gross public debt levels in the world.

The Department of Finance said Ireland’s gross debt has fallen from a peak of 166% of national income in 2012 to an end-2023 figure of 76% of GNI.

It said Ireland’s net debt – which takes account of financial assets – stood at €184 billion or an estimated 63% of national income last year.

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said: “There are many positive aspects to welcome in the Public Debt report we are publishing today: our gross nominal debt has declined from its peak in 2021, we are running a General Government Balance of close to 3% of national income, we have substantial cash reserves on hand and our credit rating has been steadily improving.

“This illustrates the importance of ongoing prudent management of the public finances.

“However, there are risks associated with our debt which we must be conscious of. While structural aspects of Ireland’s debt have, so far, insulated the public finances from the impact of higher interest rates, this will not last forever. Indeed, a significant portion of public debt will be exposed to higher interest rates in the coming years.

“In addition, the underlying fiscal position is less benign than the headline figures suggest. The tax base is relatively narrow and the public finances remain exposed to a shock to corporation tax receipts; product- or sector-specific shocks could potentially affect income tax receipts also.

“Beyond the near-term, the Irish economy faces significant structural change: demographics, decarbonisation, digitalisation and de-globalisation – collectively the “4Ds” – will all have implications for the public finances.

“This is the reason why I am preparing legislation for the establishment of two longer-term savings vehicles: the Future Ireland Fund and the Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund. The objective of these funds is to ring-fence ‘excess’ corporate tax receipts in order to help finance these structural challenges.

“I am determined that we make the correct decisions now to ensure that we secure the State’s ability to deliver public services over the decades ahead.”