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Policy Watch: Debt Relief

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  • Serkan Arslanalp
  • Peter Blair Henry

Abstract

At the Gleneagles summit in July 2005, the heads of state from the G-8 countries—the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom—called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the African Development Bank to cancel 100 percent of their debt claims on the world's poorest countries. The world's richest countries have agreed in principle to forgive roughly $55 billion dollars owed by the world's poorest nations. This article considers the wisdom of the proposal for debt forgiveness, from the standpoint of stimulating economic growth in highly indebted countries. In the 1980s, debt relief under the "Brady Plan" helped to restore investment and growth in a number of middle-income developing countries. However, the debt relief plan for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) launched by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 1996 has had little impact on either investment or growth in the recipient countries. We will explore the key differences between the countries targeted by these two debt relief schemes and argue that the Gleneagles proposal for debt relief is, at best, likely to have little effect at all. Debt relief is unlikely to help the world's poorest countries because, unlike the middle-income Brady countries, their main economic difficulty is not debt overhang, but an absence of functional economic institutions that provide the foundation for profitable investment and growth. We will show that debt relief may be more valuable for Brady-like middle-income countries than for low-income ones because of how it leverages the private sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Serkan Arslanalp & Peter Blair Henry, 2006. "Policy Watch: Debt Relief," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 207-220, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:1:p:207-220 Note: DOI: 10.1257/089533006776526166
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2003. "Halving Global Poverty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrea F. Presbitero, 2009. "Debt-Relief Effectiveness and Institution-Building," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 27(5), pages 529-559, September.
    2. Knoll, Martin, 2013. "The heavily indebted poor countries and the multilateral debt relief initiative: A test case for the validity of the debt overhang hypothesis," Discussion Papers 2013/11, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    3. Peter Blair Henry, 2007. "Capital Account Liberalization: Theory, Evidence, and Speculation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 887-935.
    4. Mark Aguiar & Manuel Amador, 2011. "Growth in the Shadow of Expropriation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, pages 651-697.
    5. Peter Henry, 2007. "Capital Account Liberalization: Theory, Evidence, and Speculation," Discussion Papers 07-004, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    6. Ibrahim Mohammed Adamu & Rajah Rasiah, 2016. "External Debt and Growth Dynamics in Nigeria," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 28(3), pages 291-303, September.
    7. Presbitero, Andrea F., 2008. "The Debt-Growth Nexus in Poor Countries: A Reassessment," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 2, pages 1-28.
    8. Alvarez-Plata, Patricia & Brück, Tilman, 2008. "External Debt in Post-Conflict Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 485-504, March.
    9. Andrea F Presbitero, 2012. "Total Public Debt and Growth in Developing Countries," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), pages 606-626.
    10. Cordella, Tito & Missale, Alessandro, 2013. "To give or to forgive? Aid versus debt relief," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, pages 504-528.
    11. Freytag, Andreas & Pehnelt, Gernot, 2009. "Debt Relief and Governance Quality in Developing Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 62-80, January.
    12. Freytag , Andreas & Pettersson, Jonatan & Schmied, Julian, 2016. "Debt Relief and Good Governance: New Evidence," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145914, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    13. Peter Blair Henry, 2007. "Capital Account Liberalization: Theory, Evidence, and Speculation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 887-935.
    14. Almuth Scholl, 2013. "Debt Relief for Poor Countries: Conditionality and Effectiveness," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2013-23, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    15. Boukhatem, Jamel & Kaabi, Malèk, 2015. "Dette publique, qualité institutionnelle et croissance économique dans les pays de la région MENA : analyse par la méthode des moments généralisés
      [Public debt, institutional quality and economic g
      ," MPRA Paper 65756, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 23 Jul 2015.
    16. Claudio Raddatz, 2011. "Multilateral Debt Relief through the Eyes of Financial Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, pages 1262-1288.
    17. Johansson, Pernilla, 2010. "Debt Relief, Investment and Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 1204-1216, September.
    18. Ugo Panizza, 2008. "The External Debt Contentious Six Years after the Monterrey Consensus," G-24 Discussion Papers 51, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

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