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Sargent-Wallace Meets Krugman-Flood-Garber, or: Why Sovereign Debt Swaps Don't Avert Macroeconomic Crises

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  • Joshua Aizenman
  • Kenneth M. Kletzer
  • Brian Pinto

Abstract

This paper argues that the frequent failure of the debt swaps is not an accident. Instead, it follows from fundamental forces driven by the market's assessment of the scarcity of fiscal revenue relative to the demand for fiscal outlays. It follows from the observation that arbitrage forces systematically impact prices in asset markets. Ignoring these price adjustments would lead to too optimistic an assessment of the gains from swaps or buybacks. A by-product of our paper is to highlight the perils of financial engineering that ignores the intertemporal constraints imposed by fiscal fundamentals. As a country approaches the range of partial default (either on domestic or external debt), swaps may not provide the expected breathing room and could even bring the crisis forward. Our methodology combines three independent themes: exchange rate crises as the manifestation of excessive monetary injections [Krugman-Flood-Garber], the fiscal theory of inflation [Sargent-Wallace (1981)], and sovereign debt. The integrated framework derives devaluation and external debt repudiation as part of a public-finance optimizing problem. We shows that under conditions similar to those which prevailed in Russia and Argentina prior to their meltdown, swaps are not just neutral, but could actually make the situation worse and even trigger a speculative attack. An unsettlingly clear implication of the model is that there may be very few options left once public debt reaches levels regarded as unsustainable in relation to fiscal fundamentals. Dollarization only makes matters worse, and pushes the debt write-down option to the fore.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9190.

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Date of creation: Sep 2002
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9190

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  1. Kenneth M. Kletzer & Brian D. Wright, 2000. "Sovereign Debt as Intertemporal Barter," International Finance 0003004, EconWPA.
  2. Flood, Robert P. & Garber, Peter M., 1984. "Collapsing exchange-rate regimes : Some linear examples," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 1-13, August.
  3. Krugman, Paul, 1979. "A Model of Balance-of-Payments Crises," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 11(3), pages 311-25, August.
  4. Maurice Obstfeld, 1997. "Models of Currency Crises with Self-Fulfilling Features," NBER Working Papers 5285, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Homi Kharas & Brian Pinto & Sergei Ulatov, 2001. "An Analysis of Russia's 1998 Meltdown: Fundamentals and Market Signals," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(1), pages 1-68.
  6. Jeremy Bulow & Kenneth Rogoff, 1988. "The Buyback Boondoggle," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 675-704.
  7. Kenneth Kang & Hong Liang & Henry Ma & Anthony J. Richards & Ajai Chopra & Meral Karasulu, 2001. "From Crisis to Recovery in Korea: Strategy, Achievements, and Lessons," IMF Working Papers 01/154, International Monetary Fund.
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Cited by:
  1. Andrew Swiston, 2011. "Official Dollarization as a Monetary Regime: Its Effects on El Salvador," IMF Working Papers 11/129, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Aizenman, Joshua, 2005. "Financial Liberalizations in Latin-America in the 1990s: A Reassessment," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt6cb8b11h, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  3. Garima Vasishtha, 2010. "Domestic versus External Borrowing and Fiscal Policy in Emerging Markets," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(5), pages 1058-1074, November.
  4. Joshua Aizenman & Brian Pinto, 2004. "Managing Volatility and Crises: A Practitioner's Guide Overview," NBER Working Papers 10602, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gill, Indermit & Pinto, Brian, 2005. "Public debt in developing countries : has the market-based model worked?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3674, The World Bank.
  6. Sven Steinkamp & Frank Westermann, 2012. "On Creditor Seniority and Sovereign Bond Prices in Europe," CESifo Working Paper Series 3944, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Togo, Eriko, 2007. "Coordinating public debt management with fiscal and monetary policies : an analytical framework," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4369, The World Bank.

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