Claims that ‘austerity has failed’ are popular, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. This column argues that this narrative is factually wrong and ignores the reasons underlying the Greek crisis. The worst move for Greece would be to return to its old ways. Greece needs to realise that things could actually become much worse than they are now, particularly if membership in the Eurozone cannot be assured. Instead of looking back, Greece needs to continue building a functioning state and a functioning market economy.
Lars P Feld, Christoph M Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, Volker Wieland, Friday, February 20, 2015
Julio Escolano, Laura Jaramillo, Carlos Mulas-Granados, Gilbert Terrier, Friday, February 27, 2015
Fiscal consolidation is back at the top of the policy agenda. This column provides historical context by examining 91 episodes of fiscal consolidation in advanced and developing economies between 1945 and 2012. By focusing on cases in which the adjustment was necessary and desired in order to stabilise the debt-to-GDP ratio, the authors find larger average fiscal adjustments than previous studies. Most consolidation episodes resulted in stabilisation of the debt-to-GDP ratio, but at a new, higher level.
Luis Garicano, Lucrezia Reichlin, Friday, November 14, 2014
The ECB seems to be edging towards QE, but faces a quandary on what to buy. This proposal suggests that the ECB buy ‘Safe Market Bonds’. These would be synthetic bonds formed by the senior tranches of EZ national bonds combined in GDP-weighted proportions. The ECB would merely announce the features of the synthetic bonds it will purchase. The market would create the bonds in response to this announcement, thus avoiding new EZ-level institutions or funds.
Irina Balteanu, Aitor Erce, Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The feedback loop between banking crises and sovereign debt crises has been at the heart of recent problems in the Eurozone. This column presents stylised facts on the mechanisms through which banking and sovereign crises combine and become ‘twin’ crises. The results point to systematic differences not only between ‘single’ and ‘twin’ crises, but also between different types of ‘twin’ episodes. The timing of ‘twin’ crises – which crisis comes first – is important for understanding their drivers, transmission channels, and economic consequences.
S. M. Ali Abbas, Laura Blattner, Mark De Broeck, Asmaa El-Ganainy, Malin Hu, Monday, October 27, 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.
Carmen M Reinhart, Christoph Trebesch, Tuesday, October 21, 2014
To work towards resolving Europe’s ongoing debt crisis this column looks to the past. From the recent emerging market debt crisis (1980s-2000s) and the interwar episode of the 1920s-1930s we learn that debt write-downs and defaults are able to be postponed but not prevented. Punishment for default is temporary, sometimes followed by a renewed surge in borrowing that leads to another crisis.
Christopher Findlay, Silvia Sorescu, Camilo Umana Dajud, Friday, August 29, 2014
Countries facing rising risk premiums on their debt have recognised the need for structural reform, but some politicians have argued that austerity is necessary in the short run because structural reform takes too long. This column argues that financial markets can bring forward the benefits of structural reform, and therefore that such reforms should be given greater weight in the package of crisis responses.
Jeffrey Frankel, Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The US court ruling forcing Argentina to pay its hold-out creditors has big implications. This column argues that some of them are particularly worrying. The court ruling undermines the possibility of negotiated re-structuring of unsustainable debt burdens in future crises. In the future, it will not be not enough for the debtor and 92% of creditors to reach an agreement, if holdouts and a New York judge can block it. This will make both debtors and creditors worse-off.
Nicola Gennaioli, Alberto Martin, Stefano Rossi, Saturday, July 19, 2014
There is growing concern – but little systematic evidence – about the relationship between sovereign default and banking crises. This column documents the link between public default, bank bondholdings, and bank loans. Banks hold many public bonds in normal times (on average 9% of their assets), particularly in less financially developed countries. During sovereign defaults, banks increase their exposure to public bonds – especially large banks, and when expected bond returns are high. At the bank level, bondholdings correlate negatively with subsequent lending during sovereign defaults.
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang, Thursday, June 26, 2014
Like banks, indebted governments can be vulnerable to self-fulfilling financial crises. This column applies this insight to the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, and explains why the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions policy reduced sovereign bond spreads in the Eurozone.
Paolo Manasse, Friday, January 31, 2014
Sales of state-owned assets have been proposed as a way for highly-indebted countries to ease the pain of fiscal consolidation. This column argues that, despite the potential merits of privatisation in terms of long-run efficiency, in practice it is unlikely to improve short-run fiscal solvency. Since governments rarely alienate control rights, the efficiency gains from privatisations are often small. Moreover, financial markets may not fully reflect these gains – particularly during a financial crisis. The implication is that the Troika policy of linking financial assistance to privatisations is inappropriate and self-defeating.
Charles Yuji Horioka, Takaaki Nomoto, Akiko Terada-Hagiwara, Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Japan’s sovereign debt-to-GDP ratio is higher than any country in Europe and more than twice the OECD average. This column explains why Japan’s massive government debt did not wreak havoc in the past. Robust domestic saving and a temporary inflow of foreign capital caused by the Global Crisis have prevented a crisis thus far. As both of these factors become less applicable the government faces pressure to reduce debt-to-GDP ratio can be brought under control quickly.
Willem Buiter, Friday, January 10, 2014
Fiscal sustainability has become a hot topic as a result of the European sovereign debt crisis, but it matters in normal times, too. This column argues that financial sector reforms are essential to ensure fiscal sustainability in the future. Although emerging market reforms undertaken in the aftermath of the financial crises of the 1990s were beneficial, complacency is not warranted. In the US, political gridlock must be overcome to reform entitlements and the tax system. In the Eurozone, creating a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism should be a priority.
Ashoka Mody, Tuesday, January 7, 2014
On 19 October 2010, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy agreed that in future, sovereign bailouts from the European Stability Mechanism would require that losses be imposed on private creditors. This agreement was blamed for the increase in sovereign spreads in late 2010 and early 2011. This column discusses recent research on the market reaction to the surprise announcement at Deauville. With the exception of Greece, the rise in spreads was within the range of variability established in the previous 20 days.
Kaushik Basu, Joseph Stiglitz, Thursday, January 2, 2014
The Eurozone crisis exposed weaknesses in the Eurozone’s design. This column – by Nobelist Joe Stiglitz and World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu – argues that the Eurozone’s financial architecture can be improved by amending the Treaty of Lisbon to permit appropriately structured cross-country liability for sovereign debt incurred by EZ members.
Martin Brooke, Rhys Mendes, Alex Pienkowski, Eric Santor, Thursday, December 12, 2013
Recent Eurozone events have changed the perception that sovereign debt is a problem of emerging-market economies. This column highlights some major deficiencies of the current framework, and proposes two new and complementary types of state-contingent debt contracts. The first – sovereign cocos – are designed to tackle liquidity crises. The second – GDP-linked bonds – help prevent solvency crises.
Mike Wickens, Vito Polito, Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A good credit rating has become a key fiscal objective, even if it requires austerity when unemployment is high. Recent experience has raised doubts about the sovereign ratings provided by the credit-rating agencies. This column suggests a new way to measure credit ratings based on a country’s ability to meet its liabilities using fiscal policy. This measure would have identified and signalled to market participants signs of the impending European sovereign-debt crisis well before 2010, when the rating agencies first reacted to the crisis.
Carlos Álvarez-Nogal, Christophe Chamley, Monday, October 21, 2013
The recent showdown over the US debt ceiling can be thought of as a game of chicken over the repayment of sovereign debt, with potentially severe consequences. This column describes an analogous historical episode in Spain, in which city delegates in the Cortes resisted tax increases, and Phillip II responded by suspending payments on a portion of the sovereign debt. By the time the cities caved to a doubling of their tax contribution two years later, the resulting bank failures and credit freeze had caused lasting economic damage.
Alexander Popov, Neeltje van Horen, Saturday, July 6, 2013
The European sovereign-debt crisis has raised many questions regarding the link between sovereigns and banks. This column goes to the heart of one and shows that tensions in Eurozone government-bond markets were transmitted internationally through the bank lending channel. Lending by European banks with sizeable exposures to sovereign debt from the troubled Eurozone countries became impaired after the start of the crisis, resulting in a reallocation away from foreign (especially US) markets.
Bernhard Bartels, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, Thursday, July 4, 2013
US-based credit-rating agencies are regularly subject to condemnation for causing or amplifying financial crises – the Eurozone Crisis in particular. Should Europe try to set up a European agency to counter this? This column discusses evidence that shows that the largest German rating agency was more aggressive than the US Big Three both in terms of a lower level and a higher propensity to quickly downgrade Eurozone problem countries.