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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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  • Jean-Charles Rochet, 2006. "Optimal Sovereign Debt: An Analytical Approach," Research Department Publications 4477, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:4477

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Graciela L. Kaminsky & Carmen M. Reinhart & Carlos A. Végh, 2005. "When It Rains, It Pours: Procyclical Capital Flows and Macroeconomic Policies," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2004, Volume 19, pages 11-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Brian D. Wright & Kenneth M. Kletzer, 2000. "Sovereign Debt as Intertemporal Barter," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 621-639, June.
    6. Luis Catão & Sandeep Kapur, 2004. "Missing Link; Volatility and the Debt Intolerance Paradox," IMF Working Papers 04/51, International Monetary Fund.
    7. 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.
    8. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-971, October.
    9. Kenneth Rogoff, 1999. "International Institutions for Reducing Global Financial Instability," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 21-42, Fall.
    10. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1989. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 155-178, February.
    11. 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.
    12. Jonathan Eaton & Mark Gersovitz, 1981. "Debt with Potential Repudiation: Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(2), pages 289-309.
    13. repec:idb:wpaper:321 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Harold L. Cole & Timothy J. Kehoe, 2000. "Self-Fulfilling Debt Crises," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(1), pages 91-116.
    15. Sebastian Galiani & Daniel Heymann & Mariano Tommasi, 2002. "Missed Expectations: The Argentine Convertibility," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 515, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    16. Guillermo A. Calvo & Alejandro Izquierdo & Luis-Fernando Mejía, 2004. "On the empirics of Sudden Stops: the relevance of balance-sheet effects," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Jun.
    17. Christian Hellwig & Guido Lorenzoni, 2009. "Bubbles and Self-Enforcing Debt," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(4), pages 1137-1164, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karatas, B., 2014. "Financial crisis and monetary policy," Other publications TiSEM 41e463f0-e122-4379-8db5-6, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    2. Arturo J. Galindo & Ugo Panizza, 2017. "The Cyclicality of International Public Sector Borrowing in Developing Countries: Does the Lender Matter?," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8559, Inter-American Development Bank.
    3. Yeyati, Eduardo Levy & Panizza, Ugo, 2011. "The elusive costs of sovereign defaults," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 95-105, January.
    4. Ugo Panizza & Federico Sturzenegger & Jeromin Zettelmeyer, 2009. "The Economics and Law of Sovereign Debt and Default," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(3), pages 651-698, September.
    5. Ugo Panizza & Federico Sturzenegger & Jeromin Zettelmeyer, 2010. "International Government Debt," Business School Working Papers 2010-03, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
    6. Eijffinger, Sylvester C W & Karatas, Bilge, 2013. "Three Sisters: The Interlinkage between Sovereign Debt, Currency and Banking Crises," CEPR Discussion Papers 9369, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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