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Resolving sovereign debt crises: Opening or closing the tap?


  • Kohler, Wilhelm


This paper first describes the ingredients the present crisis in the euro zone and then evaluates the key options that policy makers face in resolving the crisis and avoiding similar crises in the future. I argue that the crisis should not be seen as caused by government profligacy alone. In many troubled countries, an unsustainable build-up of private sector debt was involved as well. I argue that a more fundamental problem is that the euro zone lacks an adjustment mechanism for balance of payments crises that may arise in its member countries, with or without excessive government deficits. The metaphor of taps to be opened or closed by policy is used to discuss the core trade offs that policy makers face. I discuss monetary taps, bailout taps, austerity taps and devaluation taps. I propose a simple model of government bond markets with sovereign insolvency to be used in order to evaluate EU-type bailouts. I discuss the pros and cons of austerity as a precondition for such bailouts, and I criticize the use of Target2 as a mechanism to absorb balance of national payments crises.

Suggested Citation

  • Kohler, Wilhelm, 2012. "Resolving sovereign debt crises: Opening or closing the tap?," University of Tuebingen Working Papers in Economics and Finance 39, University of Tuebingen, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:tuewef:39

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476, January.
    2. Hans-Werner Sinn & Timo Wollmershäuser, 2012. "Target loans, current account balances and capital flows: the ECB’s rescue facility," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 19(4), pages 468-508, August.
    3. Volker Grossmann, 2011. "Wirkungen und Nebenwirkungen des EU/IWF-Rettungsschirms für verschuldete Euroländer," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer;German National Library of Economics, vol. 91(3), pages 179-185, March.
    4. De Grauwe, Paul, 2011. "Governance of a Fragile Eurozone," CEPS Papers 5523, Centre for European Policy Studies.
    5. Paul De Grauwe & Yuemei Ji, 2012. "Mispricing of Sovereign Risk and Multiple Equilibria in the Eurozone," LICOS Discussion Papers 30412, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    6. Hogrefe, Jan & Jung, Benjamin & Kohler, Wilhelm K., 2010. "Readdressing the trade effect of the Euro: Allowing for currency misalignment," ZEW Discussion Papers 10-023, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    7. Daniel Leigh & Andrea Pescatori & Jaime Guajardo, 2011. "Expansionary Austerity New International Evidence," IMF Working Papers 11/158, International Monetary Fund.
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    Cited by:

    1. Claudia M. Buch, 2013. "From the Stability Pact to ESM - What Next?," Chapters,in: Stability of the Financial System, chapter 5 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item


    Euro; Sovereign risk; Sovereign default; Government solvency; Lender of last resort; External balance; Balance of payments;

    JEL classification:

    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • F36 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Financial Aspects of Economic Integration

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