The Welfare Economics of Debt Service
31 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2004 Last revised: 4 Apr 2022
Date Written: July 1988
This paper analyzes some of the implications of the dual transfer a debtor nation must undertake to service foreign debt: (a) an internal transfer from the private sector to the public sector; and (b) an external transfer from the domestic economy to foreign creditors. It shows that, under likely circumstances, a real depreciation of the home currency may complicate the internal transfer. As long as non-traded goods are a net source of revenue for the government, the depreciation called for by debt service deteriorates the public sector's terms of trade vis-a-vis the private sector and magnifies the requisite fiscal retrenchment. The paper discusses the role of trade policy (tariffs and export subsidies) in substituting for devaluation. Generating a private-sector surplus via interest-rate policy is shown to have similar costs on the government budget when the public sector has outstanding domestic debt.
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