Political Economics of External Sovereign Defaults
We study how excessive debt-GDP ratios affect political sustainability of prudent fiscal policy in country members of a monetary union. We develop a model with free choice of distinct rent-seeking groups to cooperate (or not) in providing public goods, in seeking rents, and in austere debt issuing through international markets. Noncooperation of rent-seeking groups on fiscal prudence triggers collective fiscal impatience: fiscal debt is issued excessively because each group expropriates extra rents before other groups do so, too. Such collective fiscal impatience leads to a vicious circle of high international interest rates and external-debt default. Our calibration suggests that debt-GDP ratios below 137% foster cooperation among rent-seeking groups, which avoids collective fiscal impatience and default. Our analysis helps in understanding the politicoeconomic sustainability of sovereign rescue packages, emphasizing the need for fiscal targets and for possible debt haircuts.
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