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Dealing With Debt: The 1930s and the 1980s

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  • Barry Eichengreen
  • Richard Portes

Abstract

This paper analyzes the sovereign defaults of the 1930s and their implications for the debt crisis of the 1980s. It reports nine major findings. There is little evidence that financial markets have grown more sophisticated' over time, or that banks have a comparative advantage over the bond market in processing information. (2) Debt default in the 1930s depended on a combination of factors,. including the magnitude of the external shocks, the level of debt, and: the: economic policy response , as well as on a range, of: noneconomic considerations. (3) Countries which interrupted service recovered more quickly from the Great Depression than countries which resisted default. This contrasts with the experience of the 1980s, when no clearcut relationship exists (4) There is little evidence that countries which defaulted in the 19305 suffered inferior capital market access subsequently. (S} The readjustment of defaulted debts was protracted: the analogy with Chapter 11 corporate bankruptcy proceedings is no more applicable to the 1930s than to the 1980s. (6) Although default led in some cases to a substantial reduction of transfers from debtors to creditors, on balance returns on sovereign loans compared favorably with returns on domestic investments. (7) Creditor-country governments did more in the 'thirties than in the 'eighties to accelerate the settlement process. (3) Global schemes analogous to the Baker Plan were widely proposed but never implemented. (9) In contrast, market-based debt reduction in the form G debt buybacks played a useful role in the resolution of the crisis.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2867.

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Date of creation: Jan 1990
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2867

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  1. Stanley Fischer, 1987. "Resolving the International Debt Crisis," NBER Working Papers 2373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Eichengreen, Barry & Portes, Richard, 1986. "The Anatomy of Financial Crises," CEPR Discussion Papers 130, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Barry Eichengreen and Richard Portes., 1988. "Settling Defaults in the Era of Bond Finance," Economics Working Papers 8885, University of California at Berkeley.
  4. Fishlow, Albert, 1985. "Lessons from the past: capital markets during the 19th century and the interwar period," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(03), pages 383-439, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Javier Díaz-Cassou & Aitor Erce-Domínguez & Juan J. Vázquez-Zamora, 2008. "The role of the IMF in recent sovereign debt restructurings: Implications for the policy of lending into arrears," Banco de Espa�a Occasional Papers 0805, Banco de Espa�a.
  2. Marc Flandreau & Juan H. Flores & Norbert Gaillard & Sebasti�n Nieto‐Parra, 2010. "The End of Gatekeeping: Underwriters and the Quality of Sovereign Bond Markets, 1815–2007," NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 53 - 92.
  3. Barrett, Christopher B., 1996. "The Economic And Ethical Ambiguities Of African Debt Forgiveness," Economics Research Institute, ERI Study Papers 28345, Utah State University, Economics Department.
  4. Nunnenkamp, Peter, 1989. "Capital drain, debt relief, and creditworthiness of developing countries," Kiel Working Papers 379, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  5. Javier Díaz-Cassou & Aitor Erce-Domínguez & Juan J. Vázquez-Zamora, 2008. "Recent episodes of sovereign debt restructurings. A case-study approach," Banco de Espa�a Occasional Papers 0804, Banco de Espa�a.
  6. de Aghion, Beatriz Armendariz & de Hinestrosa, Patricia Armendariz, 1995. "Debt relief, growth and price stability in Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 135-149, October.

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