Central Bank Policies and the Debt Trap

26 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2017

See all articles by Athanasios Orphanides

Athanasios Orphanides

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: February 6, 2017


Monetary policy and fiscal dynamics are inexorably linked. When a government faces the risk of getting caught in a high debt trap, debt monetization may become an appealing option. However, independent central banks may be able to allay debt concerns without compromising price stability. One option is financial repression which, despite associated distortions, can create some fiscal space while preserving price stability. Financial repression is a feature of quantitative easing, which has proven to be an effective policy tool at the zero lower bound. This paper examines the policies of the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan and the ECB in relation to debt dynamics for the United States, Japan, Germany and Italy since the crisis. Important differences are identified across the four states, reflecting differences in the policy choices of the three central banks. While decisive QE policies by the Federal Reserve and, more recently, by the Bank of Japan have been effective, ECB policies have had decidedly uneven consequences on Germany and Italy. The normalization of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is also discussed in a historical context.

Keywords: Quantitative easing, debt sustainability, financial repression, Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan , ECB, Italy, Japan, Germany, United States

JEL Classification: E52, E58, E61, G12, H63

Suggested Citation

Orphanides, Athanasios, Central Bank Policies and the Debt Trap (February 6, 2017). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5187-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2912609 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2912609

Athanasios Orphanides (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/faculty/detail.php?in_spseqno=54058

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