Sovereign Debt Relief and its Aftermath

65 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2015

See all articles by Carmen Reinhart

Carmen Reinhart

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) ; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Christoph Trebesch

Kiel Institute for the World Economy; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: June 30, 2015

Abstract

This paper studies sovereign debt relief in a long-term perspective. We quantify the relief achieved through default and restructuring in two distinct samples: 1920-1939, focusing on the defaults on official (government to government) debt in advanced economies after World War I; and 1978-2010, focusing on emerging market debt crises with private external creditors. Debt relief was substantial in both eras, averaging 21% of GDP in the 1930s and 16% of GDP in recent decades. We then analyze the aftermath of debt relief and conduct a difference-in-differences analysis around the synchronous war debt defaults of 1934 and the Baker and Brady initiatives of the 1980s/1990s. The economic landscape of debtor countries improves significantly after debt relief operations, but only if these involve debt write-offs. Softer forms of debt relief, such as maturity extensions and interest rate reductions, are not generally followed by higher economic growth or improved credit ratings.

Keywords: sovereign default, debt overhang, debt forgiveness, crisis resolution

JEL Classification: E60, F30, N00, H60

Suggested Citation

Reinhart, Carmen and Trebesch, Christoph, Sovereign Debt Relief and its Aftermath (June 30, 2015). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 5422, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2630531

Carmen Reinhart

Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) ( email )

79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-8643 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Christoph Trebesch (Contact Author)

Kiel Institute for the World Economy ( email )

P.O. Box 4309
Kiel, Schleswig-Hosltein D-24100
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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