IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Liquidation of Government Debt

  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • M. Belen Sbrancia

Historically, periods of high indebtedness have been associated with a rising incidence of default or restructuring of public and private debts. A subtle type of debt restructuring takes the form of "financial repression." Financial repression includes directed lending to government by captive domestic audiences (such as pension funds), explicit or implicit caps on interest rates, regulation of cross-border capital movements, and (generally) a tighter connection between government and banks. In the heavily regulated financial markets of the Bretton Woods system, several restrictions facilitated a sharp and rapid reduction in public debt/GDP ratios from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Low nominal interest rates help reduce debt servicing costs while a high incidence of negative real interest rates liquidates or erodes the real value of government debt. Thus, financial repression is most successful in liquidating debts when accompanied by a steady dose of inflation. Inflation need not take market participants entirely by surprise and, in effect, it need not be very high (by historic standards). For the advanced economies in our sample, real interest rates were negative roughly ½ of the time during 1945-1980. For the United States and the United Kingdom our estimates of the annual liquidation of debt via negative real interest rates amounted on average from 2 to 3 percent of GDP a year. We describe some of the regulatory measures and policy actions that characterized the heyday of the financial repression era.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: Full PDF document
Download Restriction: no

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Bank for International Settlements in its series BIS Working Papers with number 363.

in new window

Length: 63 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:363
Contact details of provider: Postal: Centralbahnplatz 2, CH - 4002 Basel
Phone: (41) 61 - 280 80 80
Fax: (41) 61 - 280 91 00
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Giovannini, Alberto & de Melo, Martha, 1993. "Government Revenue from Financial Repression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 953-63, September.
  2. Mark Deacon & Andrew Derry, 1994. "Estimating the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Bank of England working papers 24, Bank of England.
  3. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "Debt intolerance," MPRA Paper 13932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Mankiw, N, 1999. "Government Debt," Scholarly Articles 2643866, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    • Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Gregory Mankiw, N., 1999. "Government debt," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 25, pages 1615-1669 Elsevier.
  5. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2002. "The Modern History of Exchange Rate Arrangements: A Reinterpretation," NBER Working Papers 8963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez Quiros, 1998. "Output fluctuations in the United States: what has changed since the early 1980s?," Staff Reports 41, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  7. Schularick, Moritz & Taylor, Alan M., 2009. "Credit Booms Gone Bust: Monetary Policy, Leverage Cycles and Financial Crises, 1870-2008," CEPR Discussion Papers 7570, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Barry Eichengreen & Ricardo Hausmann & Ugo Panizza, 2003. "Currency Mismatches, Debt Intolerance and Original Sin: Why They Are Not the Same and Why it Matters," NBER Working Papers 10036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Brock, Philip L, 1989. "Reserve Requirements and the Inflation Tax," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 21(1), pages 106-21, February.
  10. Reinhart, Carmen, 2008. "The Next (but not new) Frontier for Sovereign Default," MPRA Paper 11865, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Fama, Eugene F, 1975. "Short-Term Interest Rates as Predictors of Inflation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 269-82, June.
  12. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1982. "Monetary Trends in the United States and United Kingdom: Their Relation to Income, Prices, and Interest Rates, 1867–1975," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie82-2, December.
  13. Alesina, Alberto F & Grilli, Vittorio & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 1993. "The Political Economy of Capital Controls," CEPR Discussion Papers 793, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Reinhart, Carmen, 2002. "A Modern History of Exchange Rate Arrangements: The Country Histories, 1946-2001," MPRA Paper 13191, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. repec:ucp:bkecon:9780226519999 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent R. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2012. "Debt Overhangs: Past and Present," NBER Working Papers 18015, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2011. "A Decade of Debt," NBER Working Papers 16827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Joshua Aizenman & Pablo E. Guidotti, 1990. "Capital Controls, Collection Costs, and Domestic Public Debt," NBER Working Papers 3443, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 573-78, May.
  20. A Alesina & V Grilli & G Milesi-Feretti, 1993. "The Political Economy of Capital Controls," CEP Discussion Papers dp0169, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  21. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2000. "The Six Major Puzzles in International Macroeconomics: Is There a Common Cause?," NBER Working Papers 7777, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Cukierman Alex, 1992. "Central Bank Strategy, Credibility, And Independance: Theory And Evidence," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 10, December.
  23. Reinhart, Carmen, 2009. "The Second Great Contraction," MPRA Paper 21485, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  24. Easterly, William R., 1989. "Fiscal adjustment and deficit financing during the debt crisis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 138, The World Bank.
  25. Baldursson, Fridrik Mar & Portes, Richard, 2013. "Capital controls and the resolution of failed cross-border banks: the case of Iceland," CEPR Discussion Papers 9706, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  26. Reinhart, Carmen & Reinhart, Vincent, 1999. "On the use of reserve requirements in dealing with capital flow problems," MPRA Paper 13703, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  27. Fregert, Klas & Gustafsson, Roger, 2005. "Fiscal statistics for Sweden 1719-2003," Working Papers 2005:40, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  28. Ali F. Darrat, 1985. "Unanticipated Inflation and Real Output: The Canadian Evidence," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 18(1), pages 146-55, February.
  29. Stefano Battilossi, 2003. "Capital Mobility And Financial Repression In Italy, 1960-1990: A Public Finance Perspective," Working Papers in Economic History wh030602, Universidad Carlos III, Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales.
  30. Bai, Chong-En & Li, David D. & Qian, Yingyi & Wang, Yijiang, 2001. "Financial repression and optimal taxation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 245-251, February.
  31. Alberto F. Alesina & Silvia Ardagna, 2009. "Large Changes in Fiscal Policy: Taxes Versus Spending," NBER Working Papers 15438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  32. McKinnon, Ronald I & Pill, Huw, 1997. "Credible Economic Liberalizations and Overborrowing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 189-93, May.
  33. Carmen M. Reinhart, 2010. "This Time is Different Chartbook: Country Histories on Debt, Default, and Financial Crises," NBER Working Papers 15815, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Frederic S. Mishkin, 1981. "The Real Interest Rate: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 0622, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  35. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  36. Persson, M & Persson, T & Svensson, L-E-O, 1996. "Debt, Cash Flow and Inflation Incentives : A Swedish Example," Papers 613, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  37. Burmeister, Edwin & Wall, Kent D & Hamilton, James D, 1986. "Estimation of Unobserved Expected Monthly Inflation Using Kalman Filtering," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 4(2), pages 147-60, April.
  38. Jaejoon Woo & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2010. "Public Debt and Growth," IMF Working Papers 10/174, International Monetary Fund.
  39. Marcel Aloy & Gilles Dufrénot & Anne Péguin-Feissolle, 2014. "Is financial repression a solution to reduce fiscal vulnerability? The example of France since the end of World War II," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(6), pages 629-637, February.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Economic Logic blog

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:363. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Beslmeisl)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.