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Global Debt: Who owes who?

Debt simulation

Start your investigation by using this spreadsheet to run simulations of the finances of four imaginary countries - August Bank Holiday Island (ABHI), Isistan, Latinia, and Zambopo - between 1970 and 2005. (This version is protected, and you can only select and enter data into the cells specified below. This is so that you can easily delete your entries to run another simulation, and so that you don't have to worry about breaking it!).

In addition to the spreadsheet, you will need three dice. Then:

  1. click on the tab at the bottom to get the country you want
  2. enter a figure for the amount of any existing loans at the beginning of 1970 (cell K2)
  3. enter a figure for the amount of money the country has at the beginning of 1970 (cell N2)
  4. throw the dice, enter the numbers into the columns headed Die 1, Die 2, Die 3 and press <Return>
  5. see what the resulting situation for that country is for 1970
  6. discuss whether you think any additional loans are required - if you want to borrow more money, enter the amount in column K in the row for the current year
  7. repeat steps 4 to 6 until you go bankrupt or reach 2005

Some questions to think about:

  • Which country has the best outlook and which has the worst outlook, using the default existing loans and amounts of money in the country in 1970?
  • What difference does it make how you set the existing loan size and amount of money a country has in 1970?
  • What difference would it make if the interest rates did not fluctuate as they do? (They are actual interest rates for the years concerned).
  • Do you think that it is reasonable to use random numbers to determine what happens to a country?
  • How realistic are these models? What are their strengths, what are their weaknesses?

If you want to be able to edit the spreadsheet (for instance, to set different interest rates) or see how it works, you will need the unprotected version.

But what about real countries?

You may be thinking that it's all very well running a simulation, but reality is far more complex. So suppose you are responsible for the budget of one of the countries listed below. How would you spend the money? What would your priorities be?

The Jubilee Debt Campaign has put together a webpage with links to statistics to help you research these questions. Issues you might think about include:

  • education
  • health care
  • the role of women
  • climate change
  • conflict / war / disasters

Countries you could look at:

Further questions you could consider:

  • What is HIPC?
  • Compare the situation in a country which has completed HIPC, one which is going through it, and one which is not eligible - what difference does it make?
  • If you were able to influence the World Bank, the IMF, and the governments of the G8 countries, what would your advice be?

You could think about creating a game, story or simulation for younger students to help them understand the debt crisis.

Resources from the Jubilee Debt Campaign website

There are many excellent resources on the Jubilee Debt Campaign website which you may want to use in your project work. Here are some suggestions to get you started, but have a look and see if there are others that would be useful or interesting:

  • It's a question of debt
    Summary of debt background, and description of its impact on today's world. Debt timeline 1982 - present, more detailed description of situation in selected countries, suggestions for student action.
  • Debt Busters
    A game dealing with realistic scenarios involving poor country debt and the World Bank.
  • President for a Day
    Students are asked to step into the shoes of President Nulagi, leader of a fictional African country. They are then asked to make decisions based on information given by their governmental advisors.
  • Sudoku
    Basic facts linked to a Sudoku puzzle.


  • Debt and climate change
    A simple presentation of some basic facts, alone with many photographs, showing how climate change is particularly affecting poor indebted countries, how their debt burdens make the situation worse, and how the rich world's 'carbon debt' far outweighs any financial debts these countries can be said to owe.
  • Debt, poverty and changing the world
    An introduction to basic debt and poverty issues. The presentation first defines extreme poverty, then shows how debt exacerbates the situation, and then how debt relief achieved so far has helped significantly. The presentation ends with suggestions for action.