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The EMS Crisis of the 1990s: Parallels with the present crisis?

  • Gros, Daniel

The EMS crisis of the 1990s illustrated the importance of a lack of confidence in price or exchange rate stability, whereas the present crisis illustrates the importance of a lack of confidence in fiscal sustainability. Theoretically the difference between the two should be minor since, in terms of the real return to an investor, the loss of purchasing power can be the same when inflation is unexpectedly high, or when the nominal value of government debt is cut in a formal default. Experience has shown, however, that expropriation via a formal default is much more disruptive than via inflation. The paper starts by providing a brief review of the EMS crisis, emphasising that the most interesting period might be the ‘post-EMS’ crisis of 1993-95. It then reviews in section 2 the crisis factors, comparing the EMS crisis to today’s euro crisis. Section 3 outlines the main analytical issue, namely the potential instability of high public debt within and outside a monetary union. Section 4 then compares the pressure on public finance coming from the crises for the case of Italy. Section 5 uses data on ‘foreign currency’ debt to disentangle expectations of devaluation/inflation from expectations of default. Section 6 concludes.

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Paper provided by Centre for European Policy Studies in its series CEPS Papers with number 9119.

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Length: 12 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eps:cepswp:9119
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  1. Gros, Daniel, 2012. "A simple model of multiple equilibria and sovereign default," CEPS Papers 7174, Centre for European Policy Studies.
  2. Jeffrey Sachs & Aaron Tornell & Andres Velasco, 1995. "The Collapse of the Mexican Peso: What Have We Learned?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1724, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Yuemei Ji & Paul De Grauwe, 2013. "The Fragility of two Monetary Regimes: The European Monetary System and the Eurozone," CESifo Working Paper Series 4471, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Diamond, Douglas W & Dybvig, Philip H, 1983. "Bank Runs, Deposit Insurance, and Liquidity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 401-19, June.
  5. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1986. "Rational and Self-fulfilling Balance-of-Payments Crises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 72-81, March.
  6. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1988. "Servicing the Public Debt: The Role of Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 647-61, September.
  7. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
  8. Paul De Grauwe & Yuemei Ji, 2013. "The fragility of two monetary regimes: The European Monetary System and the Eurozone," Working Paper Research 243, National Bank of Belgium.
  9. Gros, Daniel, 2011. "Speculative Attacks within or outside a Monetary Union: Default versus Inflation (what to do today)," CEPS Papers 6359, Centre for European Policy Studies.
  10. De Grauwe, Paul, 2011. "Governance of a Fragile Eurozone," CEPS Papers 5523, Centre for European Policy Studies.
  11. Adrian, Tobias & Gros, Daniel, 1999. "A Stochastic Model of Self-Fulfilling Crises in Fixed Exchange Rate Systems," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 4(2), pages 129-46, April.
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