Eduardo Cavallo, Andrew Powell, 13 April 2021

Latin America and the Caribbean suffered from several regional preconditions in advance of the Covid-19 crisis, including weak health infrastructure, low growth, and inefficient taxation. Now the pandemic threatens to leave the region with even higher poverty levels, greater inequality, and debts across virtually all countries. This column recognises the severity of these challenges but also provides reason to hope. If Covid-19 produces the political will to move the region towards better policy frameworks and execution, something positive could come of the crisis.

Shusen Qi, Ralph De Haas, Steven Ongena, Stefan Straetmans, 03 March 2021

Digitalisation, FinTech, and the expansion of mobile banking have changed the way in which many banks operate on a day-to-day basis, including where they choose to have physical branches. This column explores the effect of digitalisation on the geography of banks, testing the effects of digital information-sharing on branch locations in Europe. findings suggest that information sharing has a strong positive effect on branch clustering, with banks more likely to open new branches in areas where they do not yet operate but where other banks are already present.

George Alogoskoufis, 23 February 2021

Greece experienced a deep recession in 2020, and pandemic relief measures have led to further increases in its exorbitantly high public debt. This column outlines three potential methods for dealing with increasing debt after the crisis: (1) increases in taxation/reductions of government spending, (2) debt restructuring and (partial) debt write-offs, or (3) a policy of ‘gradual adjustment’ in which economic growth helps the debt burden shrink relative to GDP over time. The precise policy mix will involve significant coordination among euro area countries, but Greece must also implement domestic reforms to facilitate a dynamic and sustainable recovery. 

Mitsuhiro Osada, Kazuki Otaka, Satoko Kojima, Ryuichiro Hirano, Genichiro Suzuki, Nao Sudo, 26 January 2021

COVID-19 has brought about severe adverse effects on the economy around the globe, and Japan is no exception. This column introduces a model that maps cash shortages to firm's default probability, employing the balance sheet data of about 730,000 SMEs. It uses the model to assesses how a decline in sales due to Covid-19 increases the default probability of firms and how much the government's financial support mitigates a rise in that probability.

Arnoud Boot, Elena Carletti, Hans‐Helmut Kotz, Jan Pieter Krahnen, Loriana Pelizzon, Marti Subrahmanyam, 25 January 2021

Covid-19 has placed renewed pressure on the European banking sector as firms and households struggle to meet the costs imposed by the pandemic. This column provides a comparative assessment of the various policy responses to strengthen banks in light of the crisis. While the authors do not make a specific final recommendation, they review the different options suggested within current research and provide a criteria-based framework for policymakers to guide them in their decision making.

Eric Monnet, 13 November 2020

When we compare ratios of debt to GDP, do we look closely enough at the political and financial context in which the debts were calculated? Eric Monnet of the Paris School of Economics tells Tim Phillips about how our statistical methods and assumptions have evolved.

You can find Eric's CEPR Discussion Paper on this subject here
And his chapter, The History and Politics of Public Debt Accounting in the recent book A World of Public Debts: A Political History, here

Joshua Aizenman, Hiro Ito, 27 October 2020

The economic policies of the US in the post-COVID era will have important implications for the global economy. This column outlines two different exit strategies for the US from the COVID-related debt-overhang and analyses their implications for emerging markets and global stability. A strategy of continuing loose fiscal policies and accommodating monetary policies may spur short-term growth but would also increase the risks a deeper crisis in the future. Alternatively, the US could adopt a two-pronged approach of shifting fiscal priorities towards expenses with high social payoffs and then promoting fiscal adjustments aimed at a primary surplus and debt resilience. The post-WWII success story illustrates the feasibility of, and gains from, a two-pronged fiscal strategy.

Andrea Presbitero, Ursula Wiriadinata, 05 August 2020

As interest rate-growth differentials (r-g) have turned negative in many countries, now could be the time for governments to pursue fiscal expansions. However, the downside risks of such policies should not be disregarded. Using a large sample of economies, this column finds that high and increasing public debts, especially when denominated in foreign currencies, can lead to more volatile r-g dynamics. In particular, this is associated with higher probabilities of r-g reversals, tail risks, and an increased exposure to domestic and global shocks. Policymakers should take note of these risks when designing future fiscal expansions.

John Hassler, Per Krusell, Morten Ravn, Kjetil Storesletten, 07 July 2020

The responses to Covid-19 have had direct economic consequences of historic proportions. In reaction to this challenge, this column was prepared by four main authors and then discussed within a large group of research-active macroeconomists who also signed the final document. The column discusses the nature of the shock and the challenges for economic policy in Europe in the current and next phases of the crisis. In addition to outlining some basic principles for guiding domestic economic policy, it also calls for clear communication of policy to minimise uncertainty, for cooperation across countries along several dimensions, and for a clear and unified strategy in the management of national debts.

Yuliya Kasperskaya, Ramon Xifré, 01 July 2020

In the aftermath of crises, the state of public finances typically regains prominence in policy agendas. This column advances the hypothesis that three properties of the budgetary setup – reliability of projections, openness to scrutiny, and transparency – facilitate the exercise of the ‘budgetary analytical capacities’ of the government, legislature, and the wider public. It constructs an index of such capacities from the OECD Survey on Budget Practices. For the period 2012-2016, a simple measure of fiscal discipline is correlated with the index and is not correlated with other standard political-economy variables that are generally used to explain fiscal discipline.

Sebastian Barnes, Eddie Casey, 09 June 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the role of fiscal policy and transformed the outlook for public finances. This column explores economic and fiscal scenarios for a small euro area country to 2025. Due to the high uncertainty, it argues for a state-contingent approach to policy. Low interest rates, if maintained, along with ‘high-altitude’ debt dynamics could create substantial headroom for the fiscal response and make future adjustments to put the debt ratio on a downward path more manageable.

Çağatay Bircan, Ralph De Haas, Helena Schweiger, Alexander Stepanov, 03 June 2020

As lockdown measures continue, or are relaxed only gradually, many small businesses continue to experience significantly reduced turnover. This column reports on a firm-level analysis across 16 emerging markets, and three Western European comparator countries, in order to gauge the potential risks associated with debt-driven COVID-19 support. The overall goal is to prevent a wave of bankruptcies that could break valuable relationships between firms and their suppliers and employees. However, liquidity support in the form of additional bank lending may create debt-overhang problems in the future and therefore requires careful targeting.

Anil Ari, Sophia Chen, Lev Ratnovski, 30 May 2020

Non-performing loans are a crucial policy consideration, especially in times of wider economic crisis. This article uses a new database covering 88 banking crises since 1990 to draw lessons for post-COVID-19 resolution of non-performing loans.  Compared to the 2008 crisis, the pandemic poses some different challenges. Despite some respite from the credit-crash of 2008, policymakers today are faced with substantially higher public debt, less profitable banks, and often weaker corporate sector conditions, making resolution of non-performing loans even more challenging.

Olivier Darmouni, Oliver Giesecke, Alexander Rodnyansky, 20 May 2020

The share of firms’ borrowing from bond markets has been rising globally. This column argues that euro area companies with more bond debt are disproportionately affected by surprise monetary shocks, compared to firms with mostly bank debt. This finding stands in contrast to the predictions of a standard bank lending channel and points toward frictions in bond financing. This provides lessons for the conduct of monetary policy in times of hardship such as COVID-19, when the corporate sector suffers from liquidity shortages.

Kevin Daly, Tadas Gedminas, Clemens Grafe, 20 May 2020

Although the COVID-19 crisis is a global phenomenon, emerging market economies are in a weaker position than developed economies to absorb its fiscal costs. This column assesses the impact of the crisis on government deficits and debt levels in emerging markets, and the fiscal adjustments that are likely to be required in the aftermath of the crisis. The findings suggest that median government debt will rise by around ten percentage points of GDP and that most emerging economies will face painful post-crisis adjustments. The results also imply a strikingly wide range of outcomes across emerging economies around the world.

Alina Kristin Bartscher, Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, 18 May 2020

Household debt-to-income has quadrupled in the US since WWII. This column presents historical evidence suggesting that debt-to-income ratios have risen most dramatically for middle-class households with low income growth. Middle-class households have increasingly tapped into rising housing wealth to finance spending in excess of income. Home-equity based borrowing accounts for 50% of the increase in US housing debt and turned the middle-class into the epicentre of financial fragility. 

Charles Goodhart, Duncan Needham, 16 May 2020

The COVID-19 crisis presents a multi-faceted challenge to policymakers. A combination of declining commodity prices, the rise in unemployment, and emergency state spending are all set to create challenging economic conditions, even as the pandemic itself subsides. This column argues that one mechanism that could help control long-run inflation levels is the issuance of long-dated gilts. This would also help to protect the young and unborn generations from the threat of resurgent inflation, which could lead to a massive rise in their future debt service requirements. 

Giancarlo Corsetti, Aitor Erce, Antonio Garcia Pascual, 14 May 2020

Prominent voices propose financing the European Recovery Fund using joint perpetual debt. This column argues that there are gains from using European borrowing and lending as two separate policy levers. In a world of ultra-accommodative monetary policy, financing the Fund issuing debt at shorter maturities and passing those low interest rates onto member states through loans with low margin and with very long maturities is financially cheaper. Supporting the recovery through this maturity transformation would reinforce debt sustainability across the EU.

Jamus Lim, 11 May 2020

Large fiscal expenditures, as well as more loans by households and firms, will lead to sharp increases in public and private debt in the near future. The resulting debt burdens may impact both post-lockdown economic recovery and medium-run growth prospects. This column presents evidence on the effects of the total debt burden on output dynamics. The results suggest increases in total debt to GDP have significant negative effects on growth. Helping economies recover from the dramatic COVID-19 shock will require tackling both public and private borrowing. 

Erica Bosio, Simeon Djankov, 06 May 2020

With lockdown measures in place almost worldwide now, cash-flow represents a significant concern for firms across multiple sectors. It remains to be seen exactly which types of business will be able to weather the coming storm. This column estimates the survival time of nearly 7,000 firms in a dozen Southern European and emerging market economies. Under the assumptions that firms have no incoming revenues, the median survival time across industries ranges from 8 to 19 weeks. Once collapsed export demand is taken into account, the median survival time falls to between 8 and 14 weeks.



CEPR Policy Research