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Debt Sustainability Assessment: The IMF Approach and Alternatives

Debt sustainability is an essential attribute of good macroeconomic policies but its precise definition is elusive and its assessment is even more challenging. The IMF has developed a sophisticated approach but it must be recognized that, because the future is unknown, any debt sustainability assessment is only valid within the bounds of the underlying guesses. There is no support for the view that added complexity allows for more precise assessments. As a consequence, policy conclusions drawn from debts sustainability exercises must be considered with care. Sacrificing growth – in the short and even in the long run – to imprecisely known risks can be very costly.

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Paper provided by Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies in its series IHEID Working Papers with number 03-2007.

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Length: 35
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: Forthcoming in book not yet determined
Handle: RePEc:gii:giihei:heiwp03-2007
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  1. Jeremy A.Rogoff Bulow & Kenneth, 1986. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 43, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  2. Roberto Chang & Andrés Velasco, 2000. "Liquidity Crises in Emerging Markets: Theory and Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1999, Volume 14, pages 11-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Philippe D Karam & Doug Hostland, 2005. "Assessing Debt Sustainability in Emerging Market Economies Using Stochastic Simulation Methods," IMF Working Papers 05/226, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Márcio Gomes Pinto Garcia & Roberto Rigobon, 2004. "A Risk Management Approach to Emerging Market’s Sovereign Debt Sustainability with an Application to Brazilian Data," Textos para discussão 484, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
  5. Oya Celasun & Xavier Debrun & Jonathan David Ostry, 2006. "Primary Surplus Behavior and Risks to Fiscal Sustainability in Emerging Market Countries: A "Fan-Chart" Approach," IMF Working Papers 06/67, International Monetary Fund.
  6. Eduardo Borensztein & Olivier Jeanne & Paolo Mauro & Jeromin Zettelmeyer & Marcos Chamon, 2005. "Sovereign Debt Structure for Crisis Prevention," IMF Occasional Papers 237, International Monetary Fund.
  7. Tito Cordella & Luca Antonio Ricci & Marta Ruiz-Arranz, 2005. "Debt Overhang or Debt Irrelevance? Revisiting the Debt-Growth Link," IMF Working Papers 05/223, International Monetary Fund.
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