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In for a Penny, In for a 100 Billion Pounds: Quantifying the Welfare Benefits from Debt Relief


  • Mark Wright


  • Christine Richmond

    (International Monetary Fund)

  • Daniel Dias

    (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and CEMAPRE)


Since 1989, creditor countries have provided debt relief to developing countries worth more than 100 billion US dollars. Prominent lobby groups are campaigning for a further 400 billion US dollars in debt relief to be provided in the near future. How much could developing country’s gain from debt relief? How costly is it to provide debt relief? Would debt relief increase social welfare? And if so, to which countries should it be most urgently directed? In this paper, we develop a framework for measuring the marginal welfare gain from debt relief and indicate when this marginal measure can be used to estimate the total welfare benefit of debt relief. We then apply this framework to data on the debts of 72 developing countries to form an estimate of the global social welfare benefits of debt forgiveness.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Wright & Christine Richmond & Daniel Dias, 2013. "In for a Penny, In for a 100 Billion Pounds: Quantifying the Welfare Benefits from Debt Relief," 2013 Meeting Papers 646, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:646

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nicolas Depetris Chauvin & Aart Kraay, 2005. "What Has 100 Billion Dollars Worth of Debt Relief Done for Low- Income Countries?," International Finance 0510001, EconWPA.
    2. Easterly, William, 2002. "How Did Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Become Heavily Indebted? Reviewing Two Decades of Debt Relief," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(10), pages 1677-1696, October.
    3. Dias, Daniel A. & Richmond, Christine & Wright, Mark L.J., 2014. "The stock of external sovereign debt: Can we take the data at ‘face value’?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 1-17.
    4. Serkan Arslanalp & Peter Blair Henry, 2005. "Is Debt Relief Efficient?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(2), pages 1017-1051, April.
    5. Sturzenegger, Federico & Zettelmeyer, Jeromin, 2008. "Haircuts: Estimating investor losses in sovereign debt restructurings, 1998-2005," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 780-805, September.
    6. Altman, Edward I, 1989. " Measuring Corporate Bond Mortality and Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 44(4), pages 909-922, September.
    7. Harberger, Arnold C, 1971. "Three Basic Postulates for Applied Welfare Economics: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 785-797, September.
    8. E. Rothbarth, 1941. "The Measurement of Changes in Real Income under Conditions of Rationing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 100-107.
    9. Nicolas Depetris Chauvin & Aart Kraay, 2007. "Who Gets Debt Relief?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(2-3), pages 333-342, 04-05.
    10. Christina Daseking & Robert Powell, 1999. "From Toronto Terms to the HIPC Initiative; A Brief History of Debt Relief for Low-Income Countries," IMF Working Papers 99/142, International Monetary Fund.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pablo D'Erasmo & Enrique G. Mendoza & Jing Zhang, 2015. "What is a Sustainable Public Debt?," NBER Working Papers 21574, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Dias, Daniel A. & Richmond, Christine & Wright, Mark L.J., 2014. "The stock of external sovereign debt: Can we take the data at ‘face value’?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 1-17.
    3. Reinhart, Carmen M. & Trebesch, Christoph, 2014. "A Distant Mirror of Debt, Default, and Relief," CEPR Discussion Papers 10195, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch, 2016. "Sovereign Debt Relief And Its Aftermath," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 215-251, February.
    5. Michael Tomz & Mark L.J. Wright, 2013. "Empirical Research on Sovereign Debt and Default," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 5(1), pages 247-272, May.
    6. Lorenzo Forni & Geremia Palomba & Joana Pereira & Christine J. Richmond, 2016. "Sovereign Debt Restructuring and Growth," IMF Working Papers 16/147, International Monetary Fund.
    7. Jeromin Zettelmeyer & Christoph Trebesch & Mitu Gulati, 2013. "The Greek debt restructuring: an autopsy," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 28(75), pages 513-563, July.

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