Indebtedness, Interests, and Incentives: State-contingent Sovereign Debt Revisited
40 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2015 Last revised: 30 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 30, 2017
This paper studies state-contingent debt as an alternative refinancing instrument for advanced economies. In times of high sovereign indebtedness, increasing yields impose eminent debt roll-over risks. We analyze the welfare implications of two state-contingent debt instruments: puttable and GDP-to-debt-indexed bonds, both temporary in nature and intended to improve deleveraging feasibility. In return for an insurance premium, puttable bonds offer protection against sovereign default, thereby internalizing the implicit risk-sharing mechanism inherited by the ECB's "Outright Monetary Transactions" program. Similar to GDP-linked debt, bonds indexed to a country's GDP-to-debt ratio, henceforth "GDR bonds," allow for consumption smoothing via state-contingent interest payments. In contrast to GDP-linked debt, GDR bonds permit competitive risk-return profiles even in the face of pessimistic growth outlooks. We find that, in the presence of default costs, state-contingent bonds allow for substantial welfare improvements relative to standard sovereign debt. For risk-averse consumers, the counter-cyclical fiscal leeway created by GDR bonds dominates the interest savings provided by puttable bonds. We verify this preference order by calibrating our model to the five Eurozone countries most heavily affected by the debt crisis: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. We discuss implied deleveraging incentives, limited commitment, and practical implementation issues for GDR bonds.
Keywords: state-contingent sovereign debt, puttable bonds, GDP-linked bonds, sovereign debt crisis, outright monetary transactions
JEL Classification: H63, G13, G28, F45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation