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Public Debt, Fiscal Solvency, and Macroeconomic Uncertainty in Emerging Markets: The Tale of the Tormented Insurer


  • P. Marcelo Oviedo
  • Enrique Mendoza


Governments in emerging markets often behave like a "tormented insurer" who tries to smooth government outlays given the randomness of public revenues and in a challenging world in which "liability dollarization" requires them to issue debt denominated in hard currencies, or indexed to tradable goods prices. How can a fiscal authority tell if the stock of public debt is consistent with fiscal solvency in this environment? This paper proposes a quantitative framework that aims to answer this question. The framework emphasizes macroeconomic uncertainty and the transmission mechanism by which this uncertainty affects debt dynamics when asset markets are incomplete. A government making a credible commitment to repay cannot borrow above a "natural" debt limit set by the annuity value of the "catastrophic" level of the primary balance. This limit, and the likelihood that the government may hit it along an equilibrium path, are partly determined by tax and expenditure policies, but they also depend on endogenous and exogenous variables outside the government's control. Liability dollarization implies that endogenous fluctuations of the real exchange rate influence the variability of tax revenues and the government's ability to service debt, and thus affect the natural debt limit and public debt dynamics. The model proposed here quantifies the dynamics of public debt implied by the competitive equilibrium of a two-sector small open economy subject to exogenous shocks to income and the world interest rate, given tax and expenditure policies. The resulting short- and long-run distributions of debt-output ratios deviate sharply from conventional sustainable debt ratios

Suggested Citation

  • P. Marcelo Oviedo & Enrique Mendoza, 2004. "Public Debt, Fiscal Solvency, and Macroeconomic Uncertainty in Emerging Markets: The Tale of the Tormented Insurer," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 647, Econometric Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:nasm04:647

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    Cited by:

    1. Philippe D Karam & Douglas Hostland, 2005. "Assessing Debt Sustainability in Emerging Market Economies Using Stochastic Simulation Methods," IMF Working Papers 05/226, International Monetary Fund.
    2. Ovalle, Raul & Ramírez, Francisco A., 2014. "Reglas versus Discreción en la Política Fiscal: Introducción al caso Dominicano [Rules vs Discretion in Fiscal Policy: An Introduction to the Case of the Dominican Republic]," MPRA Paper 68332, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Humberto Mora, 2004. "Assessing Fiscal Sustainability with Alternative Methodologies," Revista ESPE - Ensayos Sobre Política Económica, Banco de la República - ESPE, vol. 22(46-1), pages 82-145, December.
    4. Levy-Yeyati, Eduardo & Sturzenegger, Federico, 2007. "A Balance-Sheet Approach to Fiscal Sustainability," Working Paper Series rwp07-044, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Philippe D Karam & Douglas Hostland, 2006. "Specification of a Stochastic Simulation Model for Assessing Debt Sustainability in Emerging Market Economies," IMF Working Papers 06/268, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Wright, Allan & Ramirez, Francisco A., 2020. "What are the Fiscal Limits for the Developing Economies of Central America and the Caribbean?," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8269, Inter-American Development Bank.
    7. Fatih AKBAYIR & Ahmet Burçin YERELİ, 2019. "Estimating Fiscal Space: The Theoretical Framework of Ostry et al. Approach," Sosyoekonomi Journal, Sosyoekonomi Society, issue 27(39).

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    International Capital Flows;

    JEL classification:

    • F0 - International Economics - - General


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