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Why are there serial defaulters? Quasi-experimental evidence from Constitutions

  • Emanuel Kohlscheen

Presidential democracies were 4.9 times more likely to default on external debts between 1976 and 2000 than parliamentary democracies. This paper argues that the explanation to the pattern of serial defaults among a number of sovereign borrowers lies in their constitutions (on serial defaults see Reinhart, Rogoff and Savastano (2003) and Reinhart and Rogoff (2004)). Ceteris paribus, parliamentary democracies are less likely to default on their liabilities as the confidence requirement creates a credible link between economic policies and the political survival of the executive. This link tends to strengthen the repayment commitment when politicians are opportunistic. I show that this effect is large and statistically significant in the contemporary world even when comparison is restricted to countries that are twins in terms of colonial origin, geography and economic variables. Moreover, the result persists if Latin American and/or OECD democracies are excluded from the sample. Since the form of government of a country is typically chosen at the time of independence and highly persistent over time, constitutions can explain why debt policies in developing countries are related to individual histories.

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Paper provided by DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade in its series DEGIT Conference Papers with number c011_010.

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Length: 23 pages JEL Classification:
Date of creation: Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:deg:conpap:c011_010
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  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," NBER Working Papers 10568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "Debt intolerance," MPRA Paper 13932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Enrica Detragiache & Antonio Spilimbergo, 2001. "Crises and Liquidity: Evidence and Interpretation," IMF Working Papers 01/2, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2004. "Serial Default and the "Paradox" of Rich to Poor Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 10296, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 2002. "Do constitutions cause large governments? Quasi-experimental evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 908-918, May.
  6. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "The Economic Effects of Constitutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661926, June.
  7. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Rogoff, Kenneth S., 2004. "Serial Default and the “Paradox†of Rich-to-Poor Capital Flows," Scholarly Articles 11129182, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Peter H. Lindert & Peter J. Morton, 1989. "How Sovereign Debt Has Worked," NBER Chapters, in: Developing Country Debt and Economic Performance, Volume 1: The International Financial System, pages 39-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
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