The external debt of an economy represents, at any given time, the outstanding actual (rather than contingent) liabilities (and assets) vis-à-vis non-residents. External debt entails the payment of principal and/or interest by the debtor at a single or several points in the future.
The most common indicator of external debt is gross external debt, which measures the total debt a country owes to foreign creditors, i.e. it considers only the liabilities of that country. Debtors can be the government, corporations or citizens of that country.
The external debt statistics also include indicators of net external debt (i.e. gross external debt net of external assets in debt instruments). External debt is broken down by instrument, original maturity and institutional sector.
The Task Force on Finance Statistics (TFFS) sets methodological standards for statistics on external debt and public sector debt; promotes data availability on financial stocks, particularly external and public sector debt; encourages internationally accepted statistical practices to enhance data quality; and fosters inter-agency collaboration in statistical capacity building.
Guideline ECB/2011/23 on the statistical reporting requirements of the European Central Bank in the field of external statistics, as amended by Guideline ECB/2013/25, addressed to the national central banks of the euro area.