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Recovery Before Redemption: A Theory Of Delays In Sovereign Debt Renegotiations

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  • David Benjamin

    ()

  • Mark L. J. Wright

    ()

Abstract

Negotiations to restructure sovereign debts are protracted, taking on average almost 8 years to complete. In this paper we construct a new database (the most extensive of its kind covering ninety recent sovereign defaults) and use it to document that these negotiations are also ineffective in both repaying creditors and reducing the debt burden countries face. Specifically, we find that creditor losses average roughly 40 per-cent, and that the average debtor exits default more highly indebted than when they entered default. To explain this apparent large inefficiency in negotiations, we present a theory of sovereign debt renegotiation in which delay arises from the same commitment problems that lead to default in the first place. A debt restructuring generates surplus for the parties at both the time of settlement and in the future. However, a creditor’s ability to share in the future surplus is limited by the risk that the debtor will default on the settlement agreement. Hence, the debtor and creditor find it privately optimal to delay restructuring until future default risk is low, even though delay means some gains from trade remain unexploited. We show that a quantitative version of our theory can account for a number of stylized facts about sovereign default, as well as the new facts about debt restructurings that we document in this paper. Finally, we argue that our findings shed light on the existence of delays in bargaining in a wider range of contexts.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University in its series CAMA Working Papers with number 2009-15.

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Length: 73 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:een:camaaa:2009-15

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  1. Satyajit Chatterjee & Burcu Eyigungor, 2010. "Maturity, indebtedness, and default risk," Working Papers 10-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  2. Mark Aguiar & Gita Gopinath, 2004. "Defaultable debt, interest rates and the current account," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Jun.
  3. Carlos Arteta & Galina Hale, 2006. "Sovereign debt crises and credit to the private sector," International Finance Discussion Papers 878, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Leonardo Martinez, 2009. "Long-duration bonds and sovereign defaults," Working Paper 08-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  5. Eaton, Jonathan & Gersovitz, Mark, 1981. "Debt with Potential Repudiation: Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 289-309, April.
  6. Michael Tomz & Mark L. J. Wright, 2007. "Do Countries Default In "Bad Times"?," CAMA Working Papers 2007-23, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  7. Natalia Kovrijnykh & Balázs Szentes, 2007. "Equilibrium Default Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 403-446.
  8. Morten O. Ravn & Harald Uhlig, 2002. "On adjusting the Hodrick-Prescott filter for the frequency of observations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 371-375.
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