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Debt and Debt Crises Ugo Panizza UNCTAD There are my own views.

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Presentation on theme: "Debt and Debt Crises Ugo Panizza UNCTAD There are my own views."— Presentation transcript:

1 Debt and Debt Crises Ugo Panizza UNCTAD There are my own views

2 The standard view Facts –Countries get into debt problems because of lax fiscal policies –Countries have an incentive to default on their external debt obligations Policies –Debt crises should always be followed by a fiscal retrenchment –We need to implement policies that reduce a country's incentive to default

3 Background U. Panizza, F. Sturzenegger, and J. Zettelmeyer (2009) "The Economics and Law of Sovereign Debt and Sovereign Default" Journal of Economic Literature B. Eichengreen, R. Hausmann, and U. Panizza (2003) “The Pain of Original Sin” University of Chicago Press E. Borensztein, and U. Panizza (2009)"The Costs of Sovereign Default" IMF Staff Papers E. Levy Yeyati and U. Panizza (2010) "The Elusive Cost of Sovereign Default," Journal of Development Economics E. Borensztein, E. Levy Yeyati, and U. Panizza (2006) Living with Debt, Harvard University Press and IDB C. Campos, D. Jaimovich, and U. Panizza (2006) “The Unexplained Part of Public Debt,” Emerging Markets Review

4 Outline Facts –How debt grows –When do countries borrow and default Policies –Avoiding debt explosions –What to do during debt crises –How to deal with defaults

5 How Debt Grows? The economics 101 debt accumulation equation states that: –CHANGE IN DEBT = DEFICIT Practitioners use: –CHANGE IN DEBT = DEFICIT+SF –SF=Stock-flow reconciliation, or the unexplained part of public debt The stock-flow reconciliation is often considered a residual entity of small importance Is it?

6 If we estimate: Source: Campos, Jaimovich and Panizza (2006) We expect:  and R 2 to be close to 1 and  = 0 R-Squared

7 The Unexplained Part of Public Debt Source: Campos, Jaimovich and Panizza (2006)

8 The Unexplained Part of Public Debt The growth rate of the debt-to-GDP ratio is equal to: –Primary deficit/GDP + interest payments/GDP+ – GDP growth – inflation The last two variables are multiplied by the debt-to- GDP ratio If you like math:

9 The Unexplained Part of Public Debt INDSASCAREAPECAMNALACSSA INFLATION GDP GROWTH UNEXPLAINED PART INTEREST EXPENDITURE PRIMARY DEFICIT Source: Campos, Jaimovich and Panizza (2006)

10 The Unexplained Part of Public Debt What explains the “Unexplained” part of debt –Skeletons Fiscal policy matters! Transparent fiscal accounts are important –Banking Crises –Balance Sheet Effects due to debt composition Much more about this in a while

11 The Unexplained Part of Public Debt There are also things that we can explain but may not have anything to do with fiscal policy –Output collapses –Sudden jumps in borrowing costs –Natural disasters

12 Outline Facts –How debt grows –When do countries borrow and default Policies –Avoiding debt explosions –What to do during debt crises –How to deal with defaults

13 Why is sovereign debt special? Creditor rights are not as well defined for sovereign debt as is the case for private debts. If a private firm becomes insolvent, creditors have a claim on the company’s assets. In the case of a sovereign debt, in contrast, the legal recourse available to creditors has limited applicability and uncertain effectiveness. –Sovereign immunity –Little to attach So, why do countries repay and why do lenders lend?

14 Theory

15 The Economic Theory of Sovereign Debt The literature started with (and it's still tied to) an influential theoretical paper by Eaton and Gersovitz (Review of Economic Studies, 1981) The story of the paper was: –Countries borrow in bad times (low economic growth) and repay in good times (high economic growth) –Since there are no repayments in bad times, there cannot be defaults either –As a consequence, defaults can only happen in good times –Defaults are thus strategic (countries can pay but they decide not to pay) –The only reason that prevents countries from defaulting is that defaults are costly

16 The Economic Theory of Sovereign Debt So, what are the costs of default? –The traditional economic literature has emphasized –Reputational costs Countries that default will no longer be able to access the international capital market –Trade costs Default will lead to sanctions which, in turn, will have a negative effect on trade

17 From the theory to the data

18 Do countries borrow in bad times?

19 What do the data say? Government external borrowing is procyclical and not countercyclical (probably because countries borrow when they can) This confirms the idea that the seeds of debt crises are planted during good times

20 Do countries default in good times?

21 What do the data say? Default Happen in Waves… events (14 in Latin America: recent independence, civil wars). Long restructuring periods events. Credit boom events. Much faster restructuring events. Great Depression and WWII events (but little lending) events. Boom in syndicated bank loans events. The “Debt Crisis” events. Lending booms and Sudden Stops

22 …and they are often linked to bad external financial conditions

23 Do defaulter pay a high cost?

24 What do the data say? 3 years after the resolution of a default episode, there is no statistically significant difference between the spreads paid by defaulters and non defaulters We find similar results if we look at access Global factors (risk aversion and US interest rate) appear to be more important than default history

25 What do the data say? There is some evidence that defaults have a negative effect on trade But this is still controversial and the channel is not clear –No evidence that defaults have a direct impact on trade credit –No evidence (at least in recent years) of explicit sanctions

26 What do the data say? Anyway, who cares? –We do know that defaults are bad because they lead to deep recessions Econometric estimates found that, on average, default episodes are associated with a 2 percentage points drop in GDP growth But do we really know what we think we know? –Are default episodes bad for growth or is it low growth that causes default? –That is, do defaults happen in bad times?

27 What do the data say? Causality is always very hard to assess But, if we look at high frequency data, we find that: –Growth collapses anticipate defaults –Default episodes are often followed by a rapid rebound of the economy

28 What do the data say?

29 Do countries default too early or too late? Hell, the last thing I should be doing is tell a country we should give up our claims. But there comes a time when you have to face reality. –Unnamed financial industry official. Both are taken (Source: Bluestein, 2005, p 163) The problem historically has not been that countries have been too eager to renege on their financial obligations, but often too reluctant. –Memo prepared by the Central Banks of England and Canada (Source: Bluestein, 2005, p 102)

30 Political costs of default There is a (small) literature of political costs of currency devaluations (Cooper 1971). Frankel (2005) finds that a devaluation increases turnover of finance ministers from 36 to 58 percent. –Applying Frankel’s approach, bond defaults increase minister turnover from 19 to 40 percent. But bank defaults increase it only to 24 percent. –Governments lose votes after defaults The high political cost of default may affect the timing of the decision by the government. It could cause “gambles for redemption” –Mickey Mouse model (Borensztein and Panizza, 2009)

31 Summing up: Theory versus Reality Theory –Countries get into trouble because of lax fiscal policy –Countries borrow in bad times –If ever, countries default in good times (strategic defaults) So, if anything, they default too much –Defaults are very bad for the economy, with long lasting negative consequences Reality –Many debt explosions have nothing to do with fiscal policy –Countries borrow in good times –Countries default in bad times (justified defaults) And sometimes too late –Defaults do not seem to have long lasting negative consequences

32 Outline Facts –How debt grows –When do countries borrow and default Policies –Avoiding debt explosions –What to do during debt crises –How to deal with defaults

33 Prudent Fiscal Policy Control the flow of debt –Only borrow when the social return is higher than the opportunity cost of funds –This requires strengthening fiscal policies and institutions Fiscal rules Budget institutions –Hierarchical rules –Transparency Rules –Like motherhood and apple pie, this is always good, but it may not be enough

34 Avoid disasters in the banking sector It is mostly about preventing lending booms (Borio, Reinhart, Rogoff)

35 But low debt can’t buy you love

36 Low debt is not enough Public Debt and Sovereign Rating ( ) Italy Jamaica Japan Israel Belgium Ghana Jordan Saudi Arabia Pakistan Egypt, Arab Rep. Mongolia Senegal Morocco Grenada Argentina Barbados Bolivia Panama Indonesia Bulgaria Portugal Cyprus Hungary Sweden Philippines Papua New Guinea Austria Tunisia Malta Denmark Ecuador India Benin Canada Finland Qatar Netherlands Spain France Uruguay Russian Federation Venezuela, RB United Kingdom Peru Croatia Brazil Poland South Africa Ireland Malaysia Trinidad and Tobago United States Iceland Belize Turkey Costa Rica Ukraine El Salvador Colombia Bahamas New Zealand Paraguay Germany Slovak Republic Mexico Switzerland Lithuania Bahrain Slovenia Norway Oman ChinaThailand Kazakhstan Guatemala Korea, Rep. Czech Republic Chile Australia Latvia Botswana Estonia Luxembourg Public Debt as Percent of GDP Standard & Poor's Sovereign Rating AAA B- BB- BBB- A- AA- Source : Jaimovich and Panizza (2006) and Standard and Poor's Investment grade

37 Low debt is not enough Source: De Grauwe (2011)

38 Low debt is not enough Source: De Grauwe (2011)

39 A tale of two countries

40 The importance of debt structure Debt denominated in foreign currency or short-maturity debt is associated with: –Lower Credit Ratings –Sudden Stops –Higher volatility –Limited ability of conducting monetary policy –Contractionary devaluations An appropriate debt structure can reduce risk

41 How to make debt safer New and safer instruments –Local currency –Contingent debt instruments GDP index bonds Commodity linked bonds Catastrophe bonds Dedollarize official lending

42 Why do we need official intervention? Market failures –Critical mass –Standards –Instruments cannot be patented Political economy –Shortsighted politicians may underinsure

43 Outline Facts –How debt grows –When do countries borrow and default Policies –Avoiding debt explosions –What to do during debt crises –How to deal with defaults

44 Fiscal consolidation? The instinctive response to a debt crisis is (almost) always: we need a fiscal adjustment This does not make much sense if the debt crisis is not rooted in fiscal problems In fact, it may hurt. Not only in the short-run, but also in the long- run: –Recessions lead to a permanent output loss (Cerra and Saxena, 2008) –The adjustment variable is public investment (Easterly, Irwin, Serven, 2008; Martner and Tromben, 2005)

45 Source: Martner and Tromben (2005) The adjustment variable is public investment

46 When growth-promoting spending is cut so much that the present value of future government revenues falls by more than the immediate improvement in the cash deficit, fiscal adjustment becomes like walking up the down escalator. (Easterly, Irwin, Serven, 2008) …and this is very bad for growth, and for the fiscal adjustment

47 What can the international community do? Don’t ask for fiscal contractions if fiscal profligacy was not the problem If a fiscal contractions is needed, don’t frontload it (Blanchard and Cottarelli, 2010) Think about fiscal targets that protect investment (Blanchard and Giavazzi, 2004, Buiter, 198?) Also think about the quality of public investment (Pritchett, 2000, Dabla-Norris et al., 2011,)

48 When is a fiscal contraction needed? Think hard about the math  d=-ps+(i-g)d –Multiple equilibria (high i and low i ) –The international community can help (especially when the global i is very low) –Don’t lend at punitive interest rates Bagehot was right for banking crises, but he might be wrong for sovereign debt crises –Moral hazard is often overstated (Meltzer versus Krugman)

49 Outline Facts –How debt grows –When do countries borrow and default Policies –Avoiding debt explosions –What to do during debt crises –How to deal with defaults

50 From earlier this morning Theory –Countries borrow in bad times –If ever, countries default in good times (strategic defaults) So, if anything, they default too much –Defaults are very bad for the economy, with long lasting negative consequences Reality –Countries borrow in good times –Countries default in bad times (justified defaults) And sometimes too late –Defaults do not seem to have long lasting negative consequences

51 To default or not to default? Let me start by saying that I am not (I repeat NOT) suggesting that countries should default more often But I want to ask, why is there this disconnect between theory and reality? The theory might be wrong Or, they may be a problem with the world My hunch is that this is due to a mix of political failure and a lousy international financial architecture

52 Is the world wrong? In a well working system, countries should be able to borrow when they need funds (i.e., in bad times) –But during bad times, the international capital markets are not willing to provide credit at a reasonable interest rate –Therefore, countries borrow in good times because this is when they have access to credit Same reason why Willie Sutton robbed banks –Unfortunately, sometimes they borrow too much in good times and this behavior sows the seeds of future crises We need to fix the political economy of debt –The real reason why Willie Sutton robbed banks

53 Strategic or justified? Most of the defaults we observe are justified (or unavoidable, at least ex-post) episodes Strategic defaults are very very very rare –So, we cannot use econometric methods to assess the cost of these very rare events –What we are actually assessing is the cost of non-strategic defaults But why are they rare? Probably because they are costly But what is the cost?

54 The current system is inefficient: It brings some pain… Source: Wright (2010) Length of Debt-Restructuring Delays

55 …but little gain Source: Wright (2010) Change in Indebtedness to Private Creditors following Debt Restructuring

56 Is this inefficient system efficient? Some pain and no gain might be inefficient ex- post, but could be efficient ex-ante High costs of defaults are necessary to create willingness to pay, establish credibility, and lower borrowing cost –Dooley (2000), Shleifer (2003) This is why countries suboptimally delay default This is why some borrowing countries are opposed to the creation of a mechanism that may eliminate these inefficiencies

57 From second best to first best This is clearly a second best solution –Countries suffer –They destroy value and decrease recovery rates

58 From second best to first best An alternative story –The international community and financial markets implicitly forgive countries that default out of necessity but would impose a harsh punishment on countries that default strategically (Grossman and van Huyk, AER 1988) –If this is the case, policymakers need to signal that the default is indeed unavoidable and not strategic –A way of doing this is to go through considerable pain in order to delay the default as long as possible Also second best, but in this case there is a solution

59 From second best to first best Solution: –The first best could be achieved with the creation of a body with the ability to assess whether a default was indeed unavoidable A bankruptcy court for sovereigns By increasing potential recovery rates, it could be efficient both ex-ante and ex-post Everybody (lenders and borrowers) is better off

60 Debt and Debt Crises Ugo Panizza UNCTAD There are my own views


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