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Public Debt in India: A Security Level Analysis


  • Piyali Das

    (Indian Institute of Management Indore)

  • Chetan Ghate

    (Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi)


We assemble a novel data-set on Indian public debt that contains consistently defined aggregate annual components from 1951–2018, and Centre-State security level data from 2000– 2018. Using a standard debt-decomposition framework, we quantify the extent to which inflation, real GDP growth, nominal interest rates and the primary deficit/surplus explain Indian debt-dynamics. We show that inflation’s contribution to lowering public debt has been substantial over time. We also undertake a Hall and Sargent (1997, 2011) style debt-decomposition using all outstanding Centre and State securities from 2000–2018. We show that nominal returns on the marketable and non-marketable portions of the Centre’s debt account for the highest contribution in explaining the change in public debt. We show that while the adoption of flexible inflation targeting has diminished the role of inflation in debt liquidation, the large contribution of nominal returns pose a challenge to debt management.

Suggested Citation

  • Piyali Das & Chetan Ghate, 2020. "Public Debt in India: A Security Level Analysis," Discussion Papers 20-08, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi.
  • Handle: RePEc:alo:isipdp:20-08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Olivier J Blanchard, 2019. "Public Debt: Fiscal and Welfare Costs in a Time of Low Interest Rates," Policy Briefs PB19-2, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    2. Balbir Kaur & Atri Mukherjee & Anand Prakash Ekka, 2018. "Debt sustainability of states in India: An assessment," Indian Economic Review, Springer, vol. 53(1), pages 93-129, December.
    3. Scott R. Baker & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis, 2016. "Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(4), pages 1593-1636.
    4. Carmen M. Reinhart & M. Belen Sbrancia1, 2015. "The liquidation of government debt," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 30(82), pages 291-333.
    5. Olivier Blanchard, 2019. "Public Debt and Low Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(4), pages 1197-1229, April.
    6. Buiter, Willem H. & Patel, Urjit R., 1992. "Debt, deficits, and inflation: An application to the public finances of India," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 171-205, March.
    7. George J. Hall & Thomas J. Sargent, 1997. "Accounting for the federal government's cost of funds," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, vol. 21(Jul), pages 18-28.
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    More about this item


    Public Debt; Debt Decomposition; Macro-finance; Debt Sustainability; Debt Liquidation; Fiscal Dominance; Indian Economy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E65 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Studies of Particular Policy Episodes
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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