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Optimal Sovereign Debt: An Analytical Approach

  • Jean-Charles Rochet

This paper develops a model of sovereign debt where governments are myopic. Instead of focusing on the incentives to repay, as in most of the theoretical literature on the topic (which assumes implicitly that governments have long-term objectives), I therefore consider that governments always repay when they can, but also borrow as much as possible. without paying attention to the burden of future repayments. The pattern of debt is then only determined by the willingness of international investors to lend to the country. I characterize the Rational Expectations Equilibria of the credit market. These equilibria behave like rational bubbles: international investors lend a lot because they anticipate that other investors will lend again in the future. Capital flows are procyclical: the government borrows a fixed proportion of its income until a sudden stop occurs, generating default and an economic crisis. I suggest possible remedies to the high volatility of public expenditures that is generated by such borrowing patterns.

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Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department in its series Research Department Publications with number 4477.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:4477
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  1. Eswar S. Prasad & Kenneth Rogoff & Shang-Jin Wei & M. Ayhan Kose, 2007. "Financial Globalization, Growth and Volatility in Developing Countries," NBER Chapters, in: Globalization and Poverty, pages 457-516 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Luis Catão & Sandeep Kapur, 2004. "Missing Link: Volatility and the Debt Intolerance Paradox," IMF Working Papers 04/51, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Harold L. Cole & Timothy J. Kehoe, 1998. "Self-fulfilling debt crises," Staff Report 211, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Christian Hellwig & Guido Lorenzoni, 2006. "Bubbles and Self-Enforcing Debt," NBER Working Papers 12614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Chang, R. & Velasco, A., 1999. "Liquidity Crises in Emerging Markets: Theory and Policy," Working Papers 99-14, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  6. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," NBER Working Papers 9908, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "Debt intolerance," MPRA Paper 13932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Kenneth M. Kletzer & Brian D. Wright, 2000. "Sovereign Debt as Intertemporal Barter," International Finance 0003004, EconWPA.
  9. Guillermo A. Calvo & Alejandro Izquierdo & Luis-Fernando Mejia, 2004. "On the Empirics of Sudden Stops: The Relevance of Balance-Sheet Effects," NBER Working Papers 10520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Sebastian Galiani & Mariano Tommasi & Daniel Heymann, 2002. "Missed Expectations: The Argentine Convertibility," Working Papers 55, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised Nov 2003.
  11. Jeremy I. Bulow & Kenneth Rogoff, 1986. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," NBER Working Papers 2088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela & Vegh, Carlos, 2004. "When it rains, it pours: Procyclical capital flows and macroeconomic policies," MPRA Paper 13883, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  14. Eaton, Jonathan & Gersovitz, Mark, 1981. "Debt with Potential Repudiation: Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 289-309, April.
  15. Kenneth Rogoff, 1999. "International Institutions for Reducing Global Financial Instability," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 21-42, Fall.
  16. Aizenman, Joshua & Powell, Andrew, 1998. "The political economy of public savings and the role of capital mobility," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 67-95, October.
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