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Why have governments succeeded in reducing French public debt historically and can these successes inspired us for the future? An historical perspective since 1890

  • Dufrénot, G.
  • Triki, K.

The question of reducing public debt is at the heart of the current debates in France where the level of debt ratio amounted to 86% of the GDP in 2011. In this paper, we examine how the primary balance, the GDP growth rate, the real interest rate and the inflation rate have influenced the evolution of the debt ratio since the end of the 19th century. We use a methodology based on both historical and empirical analysis. Our aim is to explain why some years, the interest rate, the economic growth, the fiscal policy have helped in making public debt low, while they did not during other periods. Which historical events explained such differences? Our purpose is to think about scenarios of exit of the current French debt crisis making comparisons with the past.

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Paper provided by Banque de France in its series Working papers with number 386.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bfr:banfra:386
Contact details of provider: Postal: Banque de France 31 Rue Croix des Petits Champs LABOLOG - 49-1404 75049 PARIS
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  1. Ritschl, Albrecht, 1996. "Sustainability of High Public Debt: What the Historical Record Shows," CEPR Discussion Papers 1357, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Robert J. Barro, 1986. "Government Spending, Interest Rates, Prices, and Budget Deficits in the United Kingdom, 1701-1918," NBER Working Papers 2005, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2008. "Debt Sustainability in Historical Perspective: The Role of Fiscal Repression," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 657-667, 04-05.
  4. Prati, Alessandro, 1991. "Poincare's stabilization : Stopping a run on government debt," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 213-239, April.
  5. Ehrmann , Michael & Ellison, Martin & Valla, Natacha, 2001. "Regime-dependent impulse response functions in a Markov-switching vector autoregression model," Research Discussion Papers 11/2001, Bank of Finland.
  6. Reinhart, Carmen, 2009. "The Second Great Contraction," MPRA Paper 21485, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Alessandro Turrini, 2008. "Fiscal policy and the cycle in the Euro Area: The role of government revenue and expenditure," European Economy - Economic Papers 323, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  8. S M Ali Abbas & Nazim Belhocine & Asmaa El-Ganainy & Mark Horton, 2011. "Historical Patterns and Dynamics of Public Debt—Evidence From a New Database," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 59(4), pages 717-742, November.
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