Long Term Debt and the Political Support of a Monetary Union
This paper examines the role of long-term debt in political support for a monetary union or, more generally, an inflation-reduction policy. The central idea is that the decision on membership of the union leads to a redistribution between debtors and creditors, if they are holding long-term debt with a nominally fixed interest rate, as well as taxpayers. For example, if joining the union means a decrease in the inflation rate, creditors should favour joining while debtors should be against it. A government of a high-inflation country might strategically try to exploit this effect by selling more long-term debt denominated in its own currency at a fixed nominal rate rather than a foreign currency such as the dollar (or, almost equivalently, as floating-rate debt or rolled-over short-term debt) to its citizens. We show that the effect on political support is unclear. While the ‘creditor effect’ of increasing the number of agents holding domestically denominated debt helps generate support for joining the union, the ‘tax effect’ of having to raise more taxes in order to pay for the increased real-debt payments after a successful monetary union works in the opposite way. The paper then studies a number of special cases and ramifications; the case of Italy is examined more closely. The paper argues that recent debt-management policy in Italy probably eroded political support for actions aimed at enhancing EMU membership chances.
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