A 100-year perspective on sovereign debt composition in 13 advanced economies
S. M. Ali Abbas, Laura Blattner, Mark De Broeck, Asmaa El-Ganainy, Malin Hu27 October 2014
There has been renewed interest in sovereign debt since the Global Crisis, but relatively little attention has been paid to its composition. Sovereign debt can differ in terms of the currency it is denominated in, its maturity, its marketability, and who holds it – and these characteristics matter for debt sustainability. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on the composition of sovereign debt over the past century in 13 advanced economies.
Udaibir S Das, Michael G. Papaioannou, Christoph Trebesch
Why sovereign debt composition matters
Academic, policy, and market interest in sovereign debt has spiked since the 2008 Global Crisis. Researchers have sought to place the post-Crisis synchronised build-up in sovereign debt ratios in advanced economies within a longer-term/historical context, drawing comparisons with debt surges during the Great Depression, debt consolidations in the aftermath of World War II, and more.1
Nicholas Crafts talks to Viv Davies about his recent work on the threatening issue of public debt in the Eurozone. Crafts maintains that the implicit fault line in the EZ is evident; several EZ economies face a long period of fiscal consolidation and low growth and that a different sort of central bank might be preferable. They also discuss the challenges and constraints of banking, fiscal and federal union. The interview was recorded in London on 17 January 2014.
This column argues that the legacy of public debt resulting from the crisis in the Eurozone is a serious threat. Both the size of the problem and the options to address it make life much more difficult for policymakers than was the case in the late 1930s after the collapse of the gold standard. For some countries, a ‘subservient’ central bank might be preferable to the ECB.
The 1930s deservedly have a bad name. It is hard to imagine that a decade that included the Great Depression and a major de-globalisation of the world economy, and culminated in WWII could be other than notorious. And yet, compared with struggling Eurozone economies today, the economic situation in Europe in the later 1930s was in many ways more promising. This is particularly true of the aftermath of public debt and the difficulty of dealing with it.
Carmen M Reinhart, Jacob Funk Kirkegaard26 March 2012
Rich nations worldwide have a problem with debt. In the past, such problems have been dealt with by several tactics, including 'financial repression'. This column explains how the tactic works and documents its resurgence in the wake of the global and Eurozone crises.
In light of the record or near-record levels of public and private debt, debt-reduction strategies are likely to remain at the forefront of policy discussions in most of the advanced economies for the foreseeable future (Reinhart and Sbrancia 2011).
Throughout history, debt-to-GDP ratios have been reduced by:
Financial crises often unfold according to common patterns, but the post-2007 contraction is in fact different from other post-WWII crises in its unusual severity, says Carmen Reinhart in CEPR DP8742. But the patterns of past crises may still provide clues on the future of housing, labour, and international financial markets. This paper outlines what that future might look like.
With public debt in the US higher than it's been since 1945 and private debt burgeoning, governments are panicking about the impact of debt overhang on growth. In CEPR DP8310, Reinhart and Rogoff argue that governments have increasingly resorted to undercover restructuring by using the tools of "financial repression" that characterized the Bretton Woods era. If states continue to ignore or distort their debt problems, the authors predict, their bond markets could become ever more repressed.