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A Decade of Debt

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  • Reinhart, Carmen
  • Rogoff, Kenneth

Abstract

This paper presents evidence that public debts in the advanced economies have surged in recent years to levels not recorded since the end of World War II, surpassing the heights reached during the First World War and the Great Depression. At the same time, private debt levels, particularly those of financial institutions and households, are in uncharted territory and are (in varying degrees) a contingent liability of the public sector in many countries. Historically, high leverage episodes have been associated with slower economic growth and a higher incidence of default or, more generally, restructuring of public and private debts. A more subtle form of debt restructuring in the guise of "financial repression" (which had its heyday during the tightly regulated Bretton Woods system) also importantly facilitated sharper and more rapid debt reduction than would have otherwise been the case from the late 1940s to the 1970s. It is conjectured here that the pressing needs of governments to reduce debt rollover risks and curb rising interest expenditures in light of the substantial debt overhang (combined with the widespread "official aversion" to explicit restructuring) are leading to a revival of financial repression--including more directed lending to government by captive domestic audiences (such as pension funds), explicit or implicit caps on interest rates, and tighter regulation on cross-border capital movements.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8310.

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Date of creation: Apr 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8310

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Related research

Keywords: crisis; debt; default; financial repression; growth;

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References

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  1. Bruno, Michael & Easterly, William, 1995. "Inflation crises and long-run growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1517, The World Bank.
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  13. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2011. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1676-1706, August.
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  17. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
  18. Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria & Strobbe, Francesco & Tamirisa, Natalia, 2010. "Bilateral Financial Linkages and Global Imbalances: A View on The Eve of the Financial Crisis," CEPR Discussion Papers 8173, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  25. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2004. "The Modern History of Exchange Rate Arrangements: A Reinterpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 1-48, February.
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  31. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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