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Why are there serial defaulters? Quasi-experimental evidence from Constitutions

  • Emanuel Kohlscheen

    (University of Warwick)

Presidential democracies were 4.9 times more likely to default on external debts between 1976 and 2000 than parliamentary democracies. This paper argues that the explanation to the pattern of serial defaults among a number of sovereign borrowers lies in their constitutions (on serial defaults see Reinhart, Rogoff and Savastano (2003) and Reinhart and Rogoff (2004)). Ceteris paribus, parliamentary democracies are less likely to default on their liabilities as the confidence requirement creates a credible link between economic policies and the political survival of the executive. This link tends to strengthen the repayment commitment when politicians are opportunistic. I show that this effect is large and statistically significant in the contemporary world even when comparison is restricted to countries that are twins in terms of colonial origin, geography and economic variables. Moreover, the result persists if OECD democracies are excluded from the sample. Since the form of government of a country is typically chosen at the time of independence and highly persistent over time, constitutions can explain why debt policies in developing countries are related to individual histories.

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Paper provided by ESRC World Economy and Finance Research Programme, Birkbeck, University of London in its series WEF Working Papers with number 0003.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
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Handle: RePEc:wef:wpaper:0003
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  1. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  2. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2004. "Serial Default and the "Paradox" of Rich-to-Poor Capital Flows," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 53-58, May.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, 09.
  5. Enrica Detragiache & Antonio Spilimbergo, 2001. "Crises and Liquidity; Evidence and Interpretation," IMF Working Papers 01/2, International Monetary Fund.
  6. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
  7. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 2002. "Do constitutions cause large governments? Quasi-experimental evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 908-918, May.
  8. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "The Economic Effects of Constitutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661926, June.
  9. Peter H. Lindert & Peter J. Morton, 1989. "How Sovereign Debt Has Worked," NBER Chapters, in: Developing Country Debt and the World Economy, pages 225-236 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Peter H. Lindert & Peter J. Morton, 1989. "How Sovereign Debt Has Worked," NBER Chapters, in: Developing Country Debt and Economic Performance, Volume 1: The International Financial System, pages 39-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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