Spanish public debt surged to a 13-year high in the first quarter of 2011 and shattered a key European Union ceiling, Bank of Spain figures showed Friday.
Spain's accumulated public debt amounted to 679.78 billion euros ($970 billion) or 63.6 percent of annual gross domestic product, at the end of March, the central bank said.
Up from just 55 percent of GDP a year earlier, the public debt ratio is now the worst since 1998.
EU countries are obliged to keep their public debts to below 60 percent of GDP although many have far surpassed that level.
The public debt includes the accumulated debt of the central government, the social security system and regional and local administrations, and is a key measure of the financial health of a country.
Spain's debt level is still climbing as the economy recovers slowly from the 2008 explosion of a property bubble and ensuing recession, depressing tax income for the government's coffers.
Unemployment was 21.29 percent in the first quarter, the highest in the industrialised world, forcing up the cost of welfare benefits.
Spain's government has forecast a public debt equal to 68.7 percent of GDP at the end of this year, saying this remains about 20 percentage points below the EU average.
The economic pain is reverberating, too, in the private sector.
Spanish banks' bad loans, a major source of concern to the financial markets, surged to the highest level in 16 years in April, a separate Bank of Spain report said.
Bank loans whose recovery is in doubt amounted to 115.35 billion euros ($165 billion), or 6.36 percent of total assets, in April -- the highest ratio since June 1995, the central bank said.
That compared to a bad loan ratio of 6.11 percent in March.
Investors fret over the state of Spanish banks, hard hit by the economic doldrums and a steep rise in the cost of raising money on financial markets in past months.
The government and Bank of Spain have forced a wave of consolidation in the sector and are requiring banks to quickly increase the proportion of rock-solid core capital they hold to above international norms.