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Optimal Sovereign Debt Write-downs


  • Sayantan Ghosal
  • Kannika Thampanishvong



At present, the enhanced HIPC initiative and the Gleneagles Proposal for debt write-downs by the G8 are the main mechanisms used to reduce indebtedness of low-income countries. In these countries where poor governance is a key issue, it is naïve to believe that the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved if the current debt relief mechanisms fail to address such problem. In this paper, we develop a model of sovereign debt write-downs, where governance problems reflect domestic distributive conflict between two classes in the society and intertemporal conflict. The main policy issue is how to design the optimal form of debt write-downs and the conditionality requirements attached to it with such governance problems in mind. To deal with the domestic distributive conflict, it is crucial that the conditionality requirements target both provision of public goods and private consumption level of the poor citizens. Addressing the intertemporal conflict problem requires the use of long-run conditionality requirements. Against such a benchmark, we then evaluate the efficacy of the current debt relief initiatives and discuss some policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Sayantan Ghosal & Kannika Thampanishvong, 2007. "Optimal Sovereign Debt Write-downs," CDMA Working Paper Series 200710, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
  • Handle: RePEc:san:cdmawp:0710

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    Debt Relief; Conditionality; HIPC Initiative.;

    JEL classification:

    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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