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Historical Patterns and Dynamics of Public Debt—Evidence From a New Database

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Author Info

  • S M Ali Abbas
  • Nazim Belhocine
  • Asmaa El-Ganainy
  • Mark Horton

Abstract

This paper introduces the first truly comprehensive database on gross government-debt-to-GDP ratios, covering nearly the entire IMF membership (178 countries) and spanning an exceptionally long time period (going back to 1880 for most advanced and some emerging economies). The paper then uses the database to document the evolution of public debt ratios in advanced, emerging, and low-income economies, and relate them to contemporaneous developments in growth, commodity prices, and debt relief, respectively. Finally, the paper identifies 129 large debt increases and decreases observed in 19 advanced economies over 1880–2007 and decomposes them into contributions from the primary balance, the interest-growth differential, and the stock-flow adjustment term (a composite of valuation effects and “below-the-line” fiscal operations). The analysis suggests a pattern of asymmetric contributions: the primary balance plays a key role in debt reductions, except during the post-WWII period (when the growth-interest differential was extremely favorable); while debt surges were often associated with large stock-flow adjustments, likely reflecting assumption of implicit liabilities and exchange rate changes and, for the cases of debt reduction, debt default.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Palgrave Macmillan in its journal IMF Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 59 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 717-742

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Handle: RePEc:pal:imfecr:v:59:y:2011:i:4:p:717-742

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Cited by:
  1. Nicholas Crafts, 2013. "Long-Term Growth in Europe: What Difference does the Crisis Make?," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 224(1), pages R14-R28, May.
  2. Ugo Panizza & Andrea F. Presbitero, 2013. "Public Debt and Economic Growth in Advanced Economies: A Survey," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 149(II), pages 175-204, June.
  3. Arnaud Mehl, 2013. "Large global volatility shocks, equity markets and globalisation: 1885-2011," Globalization and Monetary Policy Institute Working Paper 148, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  4. repec:cge:warwcg:141 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Crafts, Nicholas, 2013. "What Does the 1930s’ Experience Tell Us about the Future of the Eurozone?," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 142, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  6. Pandelis Mitsis, 2012. "Is there an Environmental Kuznets Curve in the Carbon Dioxide Emissions?," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 16-2012, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
  7. Livia Chitu & Barry Eichengreen & Arnaud J. Mehl, 2012. "When did the dollar overtake sterling as the leading international currency? Evidence from the bond markets," NBER Working Papers 18097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Barr, David & Bush, Oliver & Pienkowski, Alex, 2014. "GDP-linked bonds and sovereign default," Bank of England working papers 484, Bank of England.
  9. Xavier Debrun & Tidiane Kinda, 2013. "That Squeezing Feeling," IMF Working Papers 13/125, International Monetary Fund.
  10. Anke Weber, 2012. "Stock-Flow Adjustments and Fiscal Transparency," IMF Working Papers 12/39, International Monetary Fund.
  11. Alexander W. Richter & Nathaniel A. Throckmorton, 2013. "The Consequences of Uncertain Debt Targets," Auburn Economics Working Paper Series auwp2013-18, Department of Economics, Auburn University.
  12. Luca Papi & Andrea Filippo Presbitero & Alberto Zazzaro, 2013. "IMF Lending and Banking Crises," Mo.Fi.R. Working Papers 80, Money and Finance Research group (Mo.Fi.R.) - Univ. Politecnica Marche - Dept. Economic and Social Sciences.

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