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How did highly indebted poor countries become highly indebted? : reviewing two decades of debt relief

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  • Easterly, William

Abstract

How did highly indebted poor countries become highly indebted after two decades of debt relief efforts? A set of theoretical models predict that countries with unchanged long-run savings preferences will respond to debt relief with a mixture of asset decumulation and new borrowing. A model also predicts that a high-discount-rate government will choose poor policies and impose its inter-temporal preferences on the entire economy. Reviewing the experience of highly indebted poor countries, compared with that of other developing countries, the author finds direct and indirect evidence of asset decumulation and new borrowing associated with debt relief. The ratio of the net present value of debt to exports rose strongly over 1979-97 despite the debt relief efforts. Average policies in highly indebted poor countries were generally worse than those in other developing countries, nor were wars more likely in highly indebted poor countries. Over time there has been an important shift in financing for highly indebted poor countries, away from private and bilateral nonconcessional sources to the International Development Association and other sources of multilateral concessional financing. But this implicit form of debt relief also failed to reduce debt in net present value terms. Although debt relief is done in the name of the poor, the poor are worse off if debt relief creates incentives to delay reforms needed for growth.

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  • Easterly, William, 1999. "How did highly indebted poor countries become highly indebted? : reviewing two decades of debt relief," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2225, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2225
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    Cited by:

    1. berlage, Lodewijk & cassimon, Danny & dreze, Jacques & Reding, Paul, 2003. "Prospective Aid and Indebtedness Relief: A Proposal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(10), pages 1635-1654, October.
    2. Silvia Marchesi & Alessandro Missale, 2007. "How defensive were lending and aid to HIPC?," Working Papers 115, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised 2007.
    3. Marchesi, Silvia & Sabani, Laura, 2007. "IMF concern for reputation and conditional lending failure: Theory and empirics," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 640-666, November.
    4. HEPP, Ralf, 2010. "CONSEQUENCES OF DEBT RELIEF INITIATIVES IN THE 1990s," Applied Econometrics and International Development, Euro-American Association of Economic Development, vol. 10(1).
    5. Freytag , Andreas & Pettersson, Jonatan & Schmied, Julian, 2016. "Debt Relief and Good Governance: New Evidence," VfS Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145914, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Alessandro Missale & Silvia Marchesi, 2004. "What does motivate lending and aid to the HIPCs?," International Finance 0411006, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Ndikumana, Leonce, 2004. "Additionality of debt relief and debt forgiveness, and implications for future volumes of official assistance," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 325-340.
    8. Silvia Marchesi & Laura Sabani, 2005. "Prolonged Use and Conditionality Failure: Investigating the IMF Responsibility," Development Working Papers 202, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
    9. Birdsall, Nancy & Claessens, Stijn & Diwan, Ishac, 2002. "Will HIPC Matter? The Debt Game and Donor Behaviour in Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 3297, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Ralf Hepp, 2005. "Health Expenditures Under the HIPC Debt Initiative," International Finance 0510005, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Ms. Junko Koeda, 2006. "A Debt Overhang Model for Low-Income Countries: Implications for Debt Relief," IMF Working Papers 2006/224, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Alberto Alesina & Beatrice Weder, 2002. "Do Corrupt Governments Receive Less Foreign Aid?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1126-1137, September.
    13. Robbie Mochrie, 2000. "An Appraisal of Debt Relief for Poor Countries," CERT Discussion Papers 0005, Centre for Economic Reform and Transformation, Heriot Watt University.
    14. Ratha, Dilip, 2001. "Complementarity between multilateral lending and private flows to developing countries : some empirical results," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2746, The World Bank.
    15. Tim Allen & Diana Weinhold, 2000. "Dropping the debt for the new millennium: is it such a good idea?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(6), pages 857-875.
    16. Asiedu, Elizabeth, 2003. "Debt relief and institutional reform: a focus on Heavily Indebted Poor Countries," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 614-626.

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