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External Debt and Growth

  • Hélène Poirson
  • Luca Antonio Ricci
  • Catherine A. Pattillo

This paper assesses the non linear impact of external debt on growth using a large panel data set of 93 developing countries over 1969–98. Results are generally robust across different econometric methodologies, regression specifications, and different debt indicators. For a country with average indebtedness, doubling the debt ratio would reduce annual per capita growth by between half and a full percentage point. The differential in per capita growth between countries with external indebtedness (in net present value) below 100 percent of exports and above 300 percent of exports seems to be in excess of 2 percent per annum. For countries that are to benefit from debt reduction under the current HIPC initiative, per capita growth might increase by 1 percentage point, unless constrained by other macroeconomic and structural economic distortions. Our findings also suggest that the average impact of debt becomes negative at about 160–170 percent of exports or 35–40 percent of GDP. The marginal impact of debt starts being negative at about half of these values. High debt appears to reduce growth mainly by lowering the efficiency of investment rather than its volume.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 02/69.

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Length: 48
Date of creation: 01 Apr 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:02/69
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  1. Michael Sarel, 1996. "Nonlinear Effects of Inflation on Economic Growth," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 43(1), pages 199-215, March.
  2. Jean Imbs & Romain Rancière, 2005. "The Overhang Hangover," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 06-03, Swiss Finance Institute.
  3. 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.
  4. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "Debt intolerance," MPRA Paper 13932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Tornell, Aaron & Velasco, Andes, 1992. "The Tragedy of the Commons and Economic Growth: Why Does Capital Flow from Poor to Rich Countries?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1208-31, December.
  6. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & David N. Weil, 1990. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 3541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Krugman, Paul, 1988. "Financing vs. forgiving a debt overhang," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 253-268, November.
  8. Presbitero, Andrea F., 2007. "The debt-growth nexus in poor countries: a reassessment," Economics Discussion Papers 2007-17, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  9. Shuanglin Lin & Kim Sosin, 2001. "Foreign debt and economic growth," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 9(3), pages 635-655, November.
  10. Daniel Cohen & Jeffrey Sachs, 1991. "Growth and External Debt Under Risk of Debt Repudiation," NBER Chapters, in: International Volatility and Economic Growth: The First Ten Years of The International Seminar on Macroeconomics, pages 437-472 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Orlando Rubio M. & Jair Ojeda J. & Enrique Montes U., . "Deuda Externa, Inversión y Crecimiento en Colombia, 1970-2002," Borradores de Economia 272, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
  12. Roberto Rigobon, 2003. "Identification Through Heteroskedasticity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 777-792, November.
  13. Chowdhury, Abdur R., 2001. "External Debt and Growth in Developing Countries: A Sensitivity and Causal Analysis," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
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