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The Overhang Hangover

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  • Imbs, Jean
  • Rancière, Romain

Abstract

We revisit the debt overhang question. We first use non-parametric techniques to isolate a panel of countries on the downward sloping section of a debt Laffer curve. In particular, overhang countries are ones where a threshold level of debt is reached in sample, beyond which (initial) debt ends up lowering (subsequent) growth. On average, significantly negative coefficients appear when debt face value reaches 60% of GDP or 200% of exports, and when its present value reaches 40% of GDP or 140% of exports. Second, we depart from reduced form growth regressions and perform direct tests of the theory on the thus selected sample of overhang countries. In the spirit of event studies, we ask whether, as the overhang level of debt is reached: (i) investment falls precipitously as it should when it becomes optimal to default; (ii) economic policy deteriorates observably, as it should when debt contracts become unable to elicit effort on the part of the debtor; and (iii) the terms of borrowing worsen noticeably, as they should when it becomes optimal for creditors to pre-empt default and exact punitive interest rates. We find a systematic response of investment, particularly when property rights are weakly enforced, some worsening of the policy environment, and a fall in interest rates. This easing of borrowing conditions happens because lending by the private sector virtually disappears in overhang situations, and multilateral agencies step in with concessional rates. Thus, while debt relief is likely to improve economic policy (and especially investment) in overhang countries, it is doubtful that it would ease their terms of borrowing, or the burden of debt.

Suggested Citation

  • Imbs, Jean & Rancière, Romain, 2005. "The Overhang Hangover," CEPR Discussion Papers 5210, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5210
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    Cited by:

    1. Nicolas Depetris Chauvin & Aart Kraay, 2005. "What Has 100 Billion Dollars Worth of Debt Relief Done for Low- Income Countries?," International Finance 0510001, EconWPA.
    2. Bevan, David L., 2012. "Aid, Fiscal Policy, Climate Change, and Growth," WIDER Working Paper Series 077, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    3. Presbitero, Andrea F., 2008. "The Debt-Growth Nexus in Poor Countries: A Reassessment," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 2, pages 1-28.
    4. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-77 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Catherine Pattillo & Hélène Poirson & Luca Antonio Ricci, 2011. "External Debt and Growth," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 2(3).
    6. Claudio Raddatz, 2011. "Multilateral Debt Relief through the Eyes of Financial Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1262-1288, November.
    7. Cordella, Tito & Missale, Alessandro, 2013. "To give or to forgive? Aid versus debt relief," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 504-528.
    8. Andrea F. Presbitero, 2009. "Debt-Relief Effectiveness and Institution-Building," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 27(5), pages 529-559, September.
    9. Drine, Imed & Nabi, M. Sami, 2010. "Public external debt, informality and production efficiency in developing countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 487-495, March.
    10. Johansson, Pernilla, 2010. "Debt Relief, Investment and Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 1204-1216, September.
    11. Romero, Alfredo A. & Burkey, Mark L., 2011. "Debt Overhang in the Eurozone: A Spatial Panel Analysis," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 41(1), pages 49-63, Summer.
    12. Ikonen, Pasi, 2010. "Effect of finance on growth through more efficient utilization of technological innovations," Research Discussion Papers 21/2010, Bank of Finland.
    13. Johansson, Pernilla, 2009. "Grants to needy countries? A study of aid composition between 1975 and 2005," Working Papers 2009:19, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    14. Marco Arnone & Luca Bandiera & Andrea Presbitero, 2005. "External Debt Sustainability: Theory and Empirical Evidence," International Finance 0512007, EconWPA.
    15. Mahmoud Sami Nabi & Imed Drine, 2009. "External Debt, Informal Economy and Growth," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 29(3), pages 1695-1707.
    16. Siti Daud & Jan Podivinsky, 2011. "Debt–Growth Nexus: A Spatial Econometrics Approach for Developing Countries," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), vol. 18(1), pages 1-15, September.
    17. Brown, Martin & Lane, Philip R., 2011. "Debt overhang in emerging Europe ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5784, The World Bank.
    18. Gul, Adnan, 2008. "Is external debt an effective way of bringing economic reforms?," MPRA Paper 10979, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Zorell, Nico, 2017. "Large net foreign liabilities of euro area countries," Occasional Paper Series 198, European Central Bank.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    debt contracts; debt overhang; debt relief; investment; kernel estimation;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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