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Supersanctions and Sovereign Debt Repayment

  • Kris James Mitchener
  • Marc D. Weidenmier

Theoretical models have suggested that sanctions may be important for enforcing sovereign debt contracts (Bulow and Rogoff, 1989a, 1989b). This paper examines the role of sanctions in promoting debt repayment during the classical gold standard period. We analyze a wide range of sanctions including gunboat diplomacy, external fiscal control over a country's finances, asset seizures by private creditors, and trade sanctions. We find that "supersanctions," instances where military pressure or political control were applied in response to default, were an important and commonly used enforcement mechanism from 1870-1913. Following the implementation of supersanctions, on average, ex ante default probabilities on new debt issues fell by more than 60 percent, yield spreads declined approximately 800 basis points, and defaulting countries experienced almost a 100 percent reduction of time spent in default. We also find that debt defaulters that surrendered their fiscal sovereignty for an extended period of time were able to issue large amounts of new debt on international capital markets. Consistent with policies advocated by Caballero and Dornbusch (2002) for Argentina, our results suggest that third-party enforcement mechanisms, with the authority to enact financial and fiscal reforms, may be beneficial for resuscitating the capital market reputation of sovereign defaulters.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11472.

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Date of creation: Jul 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11472
Note: DAE IFM
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  1. Bordo, Michael D. & Rockoff, Hugh, 1996. "The Gold Standard as a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(02), pages 389-428, June.
  2. Rose, Andrew K., 2005. "One reason countries pay their debts: renegotiation and international trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 189-206, June.
  3. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1989. "Sovereign Debt: Is to Forgive to Forget?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 43-50, March.
  4. Kenneth M. Kletzer & Brian D. Wright, 2000. "Sovereign Debt as Intertemporal Barter," International Finance 0003004, EconWPA.
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  8. Jose Vicente Martinez and Guido Sandleris, 2008. "Is it Punishment? Sovereign Defaults and the Decline in Trade," Business School Working Papers 2008-01, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
  9. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1989. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 155-78, February.
  10. Paolo Mauro & Yishay Yafeh, 2003. "The Corporation of Foreign Bondholders," IMF Working Papers 03/107, International Monetary Fund.
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  12. Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2004. "Empire, Public Goods, and the Roosevelt Corollary," NBER Working Papers 10729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Ferguson, Niall & Schularick, Moritz, 2006. "The Empire Effect: The Determinants of Country Risk in the First Age of Globalization, 1880 1913," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(02), pages 283-312, June.
  14. English, William B, 1996. "Understanding the Costs of Sovereign Default: American State Debts in the 1840's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 259-75, March.
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  17. Marc Flandreau & Mathilde Maurel, 2005. "Monetary Union, Trade Integration, and Business Cycles in 19th Century Europe," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 135-152, April.
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  23. Lance Davis & Stanley Engerman, 2003. "History Lessons: Sanctions - Neither War nor Peace," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(2), pages 187-197, Spring.
  24. Michele Fratianni, 2006. "Government Debt, Reputation and Creditors’ Protections: The Tale of San Giorgio," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 10(4), pages 487-506, December.
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