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A Distant Mirror of Debt, Default, and Relief

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  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Christoph Trebesch

Abstract

We take a first pass at quantifying the magnitudes of debt relief achieved through default and restructuring in two distinct samples: 1979-2010, focusing on credit events in emerging markets, and 1920-1939, documenting the official debt hangover in advanced economies that was created by World War I and its aftermath. We examine the economic performance of debtor countries during and after these overhang episodes, by tracing the evolution of real per capita GDP (levels and growth rates); sovereign credit ratings; debt servicing burdens relative to GDP, fiscal revenues, and exports; as well as the level of government debt (external and total). Across 45 crisis episodes for which data is available we find that debt relief averaged 21 percent of GDP for advanced economies (1932-1939) and 16 percent of GDP for emerging markets (1979-2010), respectively. The economic landscape after a final debt reduction is characterized by higher income levels and growth, lower debt servicing burdens and lower government debt. Also ratings recover markedly, albeit only in the modern period.

Suggested Citation

  • Carmen M. Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch, 2014. "A Distant Mirror of Debt, Default, and Relief," NBER Working Papers 20577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20577
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    1. Des défauts souverains en miroir
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    Cited by:

    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch, 2016. "The International Monetary Fund: 70 Years of Reinvention," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch, 2016. "Global Cycles: Capital Flows, Commodities, and Sovereign Defaults, 1815-2015," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 574-580, May.
    3. Fabrizio Balassone & Sara Cecchetti & Martina Cecioni & Marika Cioffi & Wanda Cornacchia & Flavia Corneli & Gabriele Semeraro, 2016. "Economic governance in the euro area: balancing risk reduction and risk sharing," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 344, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    4. Gregori Galofré-Vilà & Martin McKee & Christopher M. Meissner & David Stuckler, 2016. "The Economic Consequences of the 1953 London Debt Agreement," NBER Working Papers 22557, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. repec:eee:inecon:v:107:y:2017:i:c:p:91-110 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Anusha Chari & Ryan Leary & Toan Phan, 2017. "The Costs of (sub)Sovereign Default Risk: Evidence from Puerto Rico," NBER Working Papers 24108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Consiglio, Andrea & Zenios, Stavros A., 2015. "The Case for Contingent Convertible Debt for Sovereignst," Working Papers 15-13, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center.
    8. Silvia Marchesi, 2016. "Life after default? Private vs. official sovereign debt restructurings," Development Working Papers 398, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano, revised 26 Aug 2016.
    9. Trebesch, Christoph & Zabel, Michael, 2017. "The output costs of hard and soft sovereign default," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 416-432.
    10. Mattia Osvaldo Picarelli, 2016. "Debt Overhang and Sovereign Debt Restructuring," Working Papers 9/16, Sapienza University of Rome, DISS.
    11. repec:eme:isetez:s1571-038620150000024018 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Carmen M. Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch, 2015. "The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829–2015," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 46(2 (Fall)), pages 307-328.
    13. Lorenzo Forni & Geremia Palomba & Joana Pereira & Christine J. Richmond, 2016. "Sovereign Debt Restructuring and Growth," IMF Working Papers 16/147, International Monetary Fund.
    14. Marianna Astore & Michele Fratianni, 2016. ""We can't pay": How Italy cancelled war debts after Lausanne," Mo.Fi.R. Working Papers 129, Money and Finance Research group (Mo.Fi.R.) - Univ. Politecnica Marche - Dept. Economic and Social Sciences.
    15. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2015. "Financial and Sovereign Debt Crises: Some Lessons Learned and Those Forgotten," Journal of Banking and Financial Economics, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Management, vol. 2(4), pages 5-17, June.
    16. Müller, Andreas & Storesletten, Kjetil & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2015. "Sovereign Debt and Structural Reforms," CEPR Discussion Papers 10588, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. Gong Cheng & Javier Diaz-Cassou & Aitor Erce, 2017. "From Debt Collection to Relief Provision: 60 Years of Official Debt Restructurings through the Paris Club," Working Papers 20, European Stability Mechanism.
    18. repec:sgm:jbfeuw:v:2:y:2015:i:4:p:13 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Gong Cheng & Javier Díaz Cassou & Aitor Erce, 2017. "From Debt Collection to Relief Provision: 60 Years of Official Debt Restructurings through the Paris Club," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8081, Inter-American Development Bank.
    20. Willi Semmler & Christian R. Proaño, 2015. "Escape Routes from Sovereign Default Risk in the Euro Area," International Symposia in Economic Theory and Econometrics,in: Monetary Policy in the Context of the Financial Crisis: New Challenges and Lessons, volume 24, pages 163-193 Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    21. Busch, Berthold & Matthes, Jürgen, 2015. "Ein Staatsinsolvenzverfahren für den Euroraum," IW policy papers 23/2015, Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (IW) / Cologne Institute for Economic Research.
    22. Michel Guillard & Hubert Kempf (Ecole Normale de Cachan & université Paris-Saclay), 2016. "Sovereign default and public debt sustainability," EcoMod2016 9696, EcoMod.
    23. Catão, Luis A.V. & Mano, Rui C., 2017. "Default premium," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 91-110.

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    JEL classification:

    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
    • N0 - Economic History - - General

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