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Debt and Macroeconomic Stability

  • Douglas Sutherland
  • Peter Hoeller
  • Rossana Merola
  • Volker Ziemann

Debt levels have surged since the mid-1990s and have reached historic highs across the OECD. High debt levels can create vulnerabilities, which amplify and transmit macroeconomic and asset price shocks. Furthermore, high debt levels hinder the ability of households and enterprises to smooth consumption and investment and of governments to cushion adverse shocks. The empirical evidence suggests that when private sector debt levels, particularly for households, rise above trend the likelihood of recession increases. Measures of financial leverage give less warning and typically only deteriorate once the economy begins to slow and asset prices are falling. Government debt typically rises after the onset of a recession, suggesting that there is a migration of debt across balance sheets. Some policies, such as robust micro prudential regulation and frameworks to deal with debt overhangs and maintain public debt at prudent levels, can help economies withstand adverse shocks. Other policy options, such as addressing biases in tax codes that favour debt financing and targeted macro-prudential policies, will help bring down debt levels and address future run ups in debt. Endettement et stabilité macroéconomique Les niveaux d’endettement sont montés en flèche depuis le milieu des années 90 et atteignent des sommets historiques dans la zone de l’OCDE. Un endettement important peut créer des vulnérabilités, qui amplifient et répercutent les chocs macroéconomiques et les variations des prix des actifs. Par ailleurs, dans ces conditions, les ménages et les entreprises n’ont plus la possibilité de lisser leur consommation et leurs investissements et les gouvernements d’amortir les chocs négatifs. L’expérience semble indiquer que, lorsque les niveaux d’endettement du secteur privé, en particulier ceux des ménages, sont supérieurs à la tendance, la probabilité de récession s’accroît. Les indicateurs du levier financier donnent moins de signaux d’alerte et ne se détériorent généralement qu’une fois que l’activité économique commence à se ralentir et que le prix des actifs baissent. La dette publique augmente généralement après le début d’une récession, ce qui laisse penser que la dette migre entre les bilans. Certaines mesures telles que la mise en place d’une réglementation micro-prudentielle efficace et de cadres permettant de faire face au surendettement et de maintenir la dette publique à des niveaux prudents peuvent aider les économies à résister à des chocs défavorables. D’autres actions possibles, comme la correction de certains biais dans les codes des impôts qui favorisent le financement par l’emprunt et des mesures macro-prudentielles ciblées, aideront à réduire les niveaux d’endettement et à contenir le gonflement de la dette dans l’avenir.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 1003.

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Date of creation: 06 Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1003-en
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