Interest rates, official lending, and the debt crisis : a reassessment
The authors document and try to explain the sizable cross-country differences in interest rates on external debt paid by a group of highly indebted developing countries in 1973-89. They find that Indonesia and Turkey, which are often praised for not rescheduling in the 1980s, paid interest rates substantially below LIBOR - and avoided the interest rate shock of the early 1980s. Differences in the default-risk premium explain some of the variation among countries, but different degrees of access to official loans carrying highly subsidized interest rates played the major role. In the sample they studied, they found no evidence that debt at floating interest rates was more expensive than debt at fixed rates. For the period 1981-89, it is possible to control for differences in the currency composition of debt, and the results are essentially unchanged. These results suggest that studies of economic performance among the highly indebted countries during the debt crisis should control for cross-country differences in the burden of interest payments.
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