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Government Debt; A Key Role in Financial Intermediation

  • Michael Kumhof
  • Evan Tanner

The literature on optimal fiscal policy finds that highly volatile real returns on government debt, for example through surprise inflation, have very low costs. However, policymakers are almost always very apprehensive of this option. The paper discusses evidence concerning features of developing country financial markets that are missing in existing models, and that may suggest why this policy is considered so costly in practice. Most importantly, domestic banks choose to be highly exposed to government debt because the alternative, private lending, is more risky under existing legal and institutional imperfections. This exposure makes banks and their borrowers vulnerable to the government's debt policy.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 05/57.

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Length: 29
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:05/57
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  1. Buera, Francisco & Nicolini, Juan Pablo, 2004. "Optimal maturity of government debt without state contingent bonds," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 531-554, April.
  2. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1996. "Law and Finance," NBER Working Papers 5661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. World Bank & International Monetory Fund, 2001. "Developing Government Bond Markets : A Handbook," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 13865.
  4. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1978. "On the Time Consistency of Optimal Policy in a Monetary Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1411-28, November.
  5. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1998. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy," Staff Report 251, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. 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.
  7. Carmen M. Reinhart & Graciela L. Kaminsky, 1999. "The Twin Crises: The Causes of Banking and Balance-of-Payments Problems," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 473-500, June.
  8. George-Marios Angeletos, 2002. "Fiscal Policy With Noncontingent Debt And The Optimal Maturity Structure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1105-1131, August.
  9. 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.
  10. V. V. Chari & Lawrence J. Christiano & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in a Business Cycle Model," NBER Working Papers 4490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Schmitt-Grohé, Stephanie & Uribe, Martín, 2001. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy Under Sticky Prices," CEPR Discussion Papers 2942, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Siu, Henry E., 2004. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy with sticky prices," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 575-607, April.
  13. Michael Kumhof, 2004. "Fiscal Crisis Resolution: Taxation versus Inflation," Working Papers 102004, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.
  14. Vincent Reinhart & Brian Sack, 2000. "The Economic Consequences of Disappearing Government Debt," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(2), pages 163-220.
  15. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carlos A. Végh, 1990. "Interest Rate Policy in a Small Open Economy: The Predetermined Exchange Rates Case," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 37(4), pages 753-776, December.
  16. Richard J. Herring & Nathporn Chatusripitak, 2000. "The Case of the Missing Market: The Bond Market and Why It Matters for Financial Development," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 01-08, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  17. repec:idb:brikps:34698 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Michael J. Fleming, 2001. "Financial market implications of the federal debt paydown," Staff Reports 120, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  19. Michael J. Flemming, 2000. "Financial Market Implications of the Federal Debt Paydown," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(2), pages 221-252.
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