Web of debt: FAQs

The BBC News website's interactive feature, Eurozone debt web: Who owes what to whom?, has been extremely popular.

As a result, we have received hundreds of emails asking a range of questions. Here are the answers to some of the most popular.

Why does the graphic show the gross debt owed to foreign banks by each country, rather than the balance of debt between countries?

The visualisation was intended to show the complicated picture of external, or foreign, debt in Europe and beyond, and how much lending goes on between countries. A net figure would not have shown this full picture, although it would have told a different and equally interesting story.

Why don't the debt figures shown in the circle add up to the total gross external debt for a country shown above the text on the right?

Not all countries that are owed money are featured in the graphic. Only the key eurozone countries and some major world economies are included. We wanted to provide a snapshot of the complicated world of inter-country lending.

The figures from the Bank for International Settlements, represented by the arrows, show what is owed to overseas banks by a select number of countries. The overall gross external, or foreign, debt figures featured above the text are from the latest IMF/World Bank quarterly report and represent all foreign debt, including that owed by governments, monetary authorities, banks and companies.

Why isn't China included?

Although figures were available from the Bank for International Settlements on how much China owed other countries, there wasn't comprehensive, comparable data on how much eurozone countries owed China. For this reason, China was not included in the circle.

Why is Ireland's foreign debt so high? Is the figure wrong?

Ireland's foreign debt figure, as with other countries, includes all debt owed overseas, including that owed by the government, monetary authorities, banks and companies. It is not just public sector debt. The figure is taken from the latest IMF and World Bank 2011 report, and is high because, although it is a small country, Ireland has a large financial sector.

Why does it say in the text that Germany is exposed to Greek, Irish, Portuguese and Spanish debt when there are no arrows from Germany to these countries?

The arrows point from the debtor to their bank creditor. If you select Greece, Ireland Portugal or Spain you will see an arrow from these countries to Germany. This shows Germany's exposure to these debts.

Why isn't there more information on government debt?

This set of data focussed on all external, or foreign, debt and was not a detailed breakdown of government debt. Such public sector debt can be owed both internally and externally. However, we included the ratio of government debt to GDP to show the difference between that figure and the ratio of gross external debt to GDP.