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Safe Debt and Uncertainty in Emerging Markets; An Application to South Africa

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  • Magnus Saxegaard

Abstract

This paper develops a methodology for estimating a safe public debt level that would allow countries to remain below a maximum sustainable debt limit, taking into account the impact of uncertainty. Our analysis implies that fiscal policy should target a debt level well below the debt ceiling to allow space to absorb shocks that are likely to hit the economy. To illustrate our findings we apply the methodology to estimate a safe debt level for South Africa. Our results suggest that South Africa’s debt ceiling is around 60 percent of GDP, although uncertainty is high. Simulations suggest targeting a debt-to-GDP ratio of 40 percent of GDP would allow South Africa to remain below this debt ceiling over the medium-term with a high degree of confidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Magnus Saxegaard, 2014. "Safe Debt and Uncertainty in Emerging Markets; An Application to South Africa," IMF Working Papers 14/231, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:14/231
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thomas Herndon & Michael Ash & Robert Pollin, 2014. "Does high public debt consistently stifle economic growth? A critique of Reinhart and Rogoff," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 257-279.
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    3. Oya Celasun & Xavier Debrun & Jonathan D. Ostry, 2006. "Primary Surplus Behavior and Risks to Fiscal Sustainability in Emerging Market Countries: A "Fan-Chart" Approach," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 53(3), pages 1-3.
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    6. Ilzetzki, Ethan & Mendoza, Enrique G. & Végh, Carlos A., 2013. "How big (small?) are fiscal multipliers?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 239-254.
    7. Enrique G. Mendoza & P. Marcelo Oviedo, 2009. "Public Debt, Fiscal Solvency and Macroeconomic Uncertainty in Latin America The Cases of Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico," Economía Mexicana NUEVA ÉPOCA, , vol. 0(2), pages 133-173, July-Dece.
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    10. Kei Kawakami & Rafael Romeu, 2011. "Identifying Fiscal Policy Transmission in Stochastic Debt Forecasts," IMF Working Papers 11/107, International Monetary Fund.
    11. Gabriela Dobrescu & Iva Petrova & Nazim Belhocine & Emanuele Baldacci, 2011. "Assessing Fiscal Stress," IMF Working Papers 11/100, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Estian Calitz & Krige Siebrits & Ian Stuart, 2013. "The accuracy of fiscal projections in South Africa," Working Papers 24/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
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    14. Gabriel Di Bella, 2008. "A Stochastic Framework for Public Debt Sustainability Analysis," IMF Working Papers 08/58, International Monetary Fund.
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