GLOBAL - The world's richest economies must urgently work out how to put a lid on spiraling retirement costs to address the "acute" challenge of tackling high public debt, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF predicted all G7 countries, with the exception of Canada and Germany, will have debt-to-GDP ratios close to or exceeding 100% by 2014.
But IMF first deputy managing director John Lipsky warned that discretionary fiscal stimulus only accounted for about one-tenth of the projected debt increase.
The biggest contributory factor to the debt burden was the projected increase in pension and healthcare spending.
"Already in 2010, the average debt-to-GDP ratio in advanced economies is projected to reach the level prevailing in 1950, in the aftermath of World War II," he said in a speech at the China Development Forum in Beijing.
"Moreover, this surge in government debt is occurring at a time when pressure from rising health and pension spending is building up," he added.
The IMF estimates that maintaining public debt at its post-crisis levels could reduce potential growth in advanced economies by as much as 0.5% annually compared with pre-crisis performance.
Lipsky said addressing this fiscal challenge is a "key near-term priority", as concerns about fiscal sustainability could undermine confidence in the economic recovery.
"The bulk of the required progress will have to reflect reforms of pension and health entitlements, containment of other primary spending, and increased tax revenues -- possibly through the implementation of both tax policy and tax administration measures," he said.
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