Dealing with Debt: The 1930s and the 1980s
This paper summarizes and extends the conclusions of a series of papers on the interwar experience of sovereign borrowing, default and debt readjustment. In explaining the incidence and extent of default, we highlight the importance of a range of factors, both economic and political. We find evidence that countries that interrupted debt service recovered more quickly from the Depression; were able subsequently to render substantially reduced transfers to their creditors; and did not experience access to capital markets in the 1940s and 1950s that was any more restricted than that available to debtors who fully serviced their debts throughout. Attempts at global schemes to short cut protracted bilateral negotiations foundered on disagreements over the funding and control of such schemes, casting doubt on the prospects for such global plans in the 1990s.
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