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Assessing Debt Sustainability in a Stochastic Environment: 200 Years of Dutch Debt and Deficit Management


  • Sweder Wijnbergen


  • Alexander France


When debt levels approach critical levels, tax payers may revolt against the associated debt service burden. Funding problems may arise in capital markets when lenders anticipate such revolts and refuse to participate in debt auctions. We provide a stochastic framework to assess whether such problems may arise and argue that the key to fiscal sustainability in a stochastic environment is a feedback rule from debt level shocks back to corresponding adjustments in the primary surplus. We show that such feedback rules narrow future distributions of debt–output ratios and so reduce crisis probabilities. We apply the methodology to Dutch debt and deficit data spanning two centuries. Our results strongly argue for the incorporation of rules stipulating tightening fiscal policy whenever debt stocks exceed previously agreed upon targets (like in the original Eurozone Stability pact). Copyright The Author(s) 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Sweder Wijnbergen & Alexander France, 2012. "Assessing Debt Sustainability in a Stochastic Environment: 200 Years of Dutch Debt and Deficit Management," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(3), pages 219-236, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:decono:v:160:y:2012:i:3:p:219-236 DOI: 10.1007/s10645-012-9188-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
    2. Davig, Troy & Leeper, Eric M. & Walker, Todd B., 2011. "Inflation and the fiscal limit," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 31-47, January.
    3. Schabert, Andreas & van Wijnbergen, Sweder, 2006. "Debt, Deficits and Destabilizing Monetary Policy in Open Economies," CEPR Discussion Papers 5590, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Andreas Schabert & Sweder J G van Wijnbergen, 2014. "Sovereign Default and the Stability of Inflation-Targeting Regimes," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 62(2), pages 261-287, June.
    5. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E, 1991. "Testing Intertemporal Budget Constraints: Theory and Applications to U.S. Federal Budget and Current Account Deficits," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(2), pages 206-223, May.
    6. Bohn, Henning, 2007. "Are stationarity and cointegration restrictions really necessary for the intertemporal budget constraint?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 1837-1847, October.
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    More about this item


    Deficits; Debt sustainability; Fiscal rules; E62; H62; H63; H68;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • H68 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Forecasts of Budgets, Deficits, and Debt


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