Rashad Ahmed, Joshua Aizenman, Yothin Jinjarak, 28 June 2019

Countries have significantly increased their public-sector borrowing since the Global Crisis. This column documents several potential fiscal dominance effects during 2000-17 under inflation targeting and non-inflation-targeting regimes. A higher ratio of public debt to GDP is associated with lower policy interest rates in advanced economies. In emerging economies under non-inflation-targeting regimes, composed mostly of exchange-rate targeters, the interest rate effect of higher public debt is non-linear and depends both on the ratio of foreign currency to local currency debt, and on the ratio of hard currency debt to GDP.

Charles Wyplosz, 17 June 2019

Cinzia Alcidi, Daniel Gros, 23 May 2019

The relationship between high public debt and low interest rates is once again at the forefront of debate. This column shows that countries with high debt levels pay a risk premium. This creates the potential for self-reinforcing loops of high debt and high risk premia, which can become explosive. 

Mitu Gulati, Ugo Panizza, Mark Weidemaier, Grace Willingham, 18 May 2019

One way for a government to reassure investors of its willingness to repay is to give them a priority claim to state assets. It remains to be seen, however, whether such commitments are viewed as credible by market participants. This column investigates how markets responded to two such commitments. A commitment by the government of Spain did not affect yield spreads, while one by the government of Puerto Rico did. This may be because, as a sub sovereign, Puerto Rico faced higher constraints on its ability to renege. 

Barry Eichengreen, Asmaa El-Ganainy, Rui Esteves, Kris Mitchener, 01 April 2019

The history of sovereign debt evolved over time along with the purposes for which governments borrowed: first state building, then public-good provision, and most recently social welfare and entitlements. Although many periods when debt-to-GDP ratios rose explosively culminated in funding crises, debasements and restructurings, less widely appreciated are episodes of successful debt consolidation achieved through rapid growth or budgetary discipline. This column analyses the economic and political circumstances that made these debt consolidation episodes possible.

Samba Mbaye, Marialuz Moreno Badia, Kyungla Chae, 12 January 2019

Since the financial crisis researchers have extensively explored the dangers of excessive public debt, but excessive private debt has received less attention. This column documents a common form of indirect private sector bailout that goes largely unnoticed. Whenever households and firms are caught in a debt overhang and need to deleverage, governments come to the rescue through a countercyclical rise in public debt. This indirect substitution takes place even in the absence of a crisis.

Wouter den Haan, Martin Ellison, Ethan Ilzetzki, Michael McMahon, Ricardo Reis, 16 October 2017

The outgoing German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has recently expressed concerns about the risks posed to the world economy by high levels of debt. This column presents the latest Centre for Macroeconomics and CEPR survey of leading economists, in which a strong majority of respondents agree that an excess of public and private debt together with inflated asset prices mean that the world economy faces heightened risks. A similarly strong majority of the experts also agree that the loose monetary policy of major central banks is responsible for the recent increase in global leverage and asset values.

Mirko Licchetta, Michal Stelmach, 14 April 2017

Population ageing is one of the most commonly cited drivers of rising healthcare spending. However, other non-demographic cost pressures, such as increasing relative health spending and technological advancement, also contribute substantially over the longer term. This column argues that taking these additional factors into account, the UK’s net public debt due to healthcare is projected to be up to twice as large in 2066. These findings stress the importance of balancing the budget as early as possible to keep public finances on a sustainable path.

Yi Huang, Marco Pagano, Ugo Panizza, 03 November 2016

High levels of public debt are correlated with lower economic growth across countries, but questions remain about whether this relationship is causal. Using Chinese data, this column explores whether increasing public debt crowds out private investment. City-level investment ratios are found to be negatively correlated with local government debt for private manufacturing firms, but not for state-owned or foreign-owned manufacturers. This suggests that as well as the short-term benefits of fiscal stimulus, there might also be negative longer-term effects, such as the crowding out of more efficient firms. 

Charles Wyplosz, 01 August 2016

The German Council of Economic Advisors recently proposed a mechanism for the orderly restructuring of sovereign debt in the Eurozone. This column argues that the proposal suffers from some inherent weaknesses. The proposal builds on logical errors and embeds well-established ideas in a setup that suffers from serious limitations. It also neglects alternative strategies that favour targeting large debts as soon as possible.

Alex Pienkowski, Joyce Saito, Suchanan Tambunlertchai, 28 March 2016

Initiatives to reduce public debt in low-income countries have made substantial progress over the past decade, but challenges remain and continue to evolve. This column presents the findings from a new IMF-World Bank report on these developments. Low-income countries have benefited from debt relief and favourable economic conditions, resulting in generally lower debt burdens and vulnerabilities. There has also been a shift in debt financing, with greater reliance on emerging market economies, international capital markets, and domestic sources. However, more recently, risks have begun to re-emerge necessitating fiscal prudence and improved debt management.

Richard Baldwin, Francesco Giavazzi, 07 September 2015

The EZ Crisis is a long way from finished. The latest VoxEU eBook presents a consensus view of what caused the Crisis and why. It argues that this was a classic ‘sudden stop’ crisis – not a public-debt crisis. Excessive, cross-border lending and borrowing among EZ members in the pre-Crisis years – much of which ended up in non-traded sectors – was why Greece’s deficit deceit in 2009 could trigger such a massive crisis. The ultimate causes were policy failures that allowed the imbalances to get so large, a lack of institutions to absorb shocks at the EZ level, and poor crisis management.

Alex Pienkowski, Pablo Anaya, 06 August 2015

During the Global Crisis, sovereign debt-to-GDP ratios grew substantially in the face of shocks to growth, increased fiscal deficits, bank recapitalisation costs, and rising borrowing costs. This column looks at how these various shocks interact with each other to exacerbate or mitigate the eventual impact on debt. Choice of monetary policy regime is an important determinant of how public debt reacts to these shocks.

Sebastian Edwards, 04 March 2015

There were 24 sovereign defaults and debt restructurings between 1997 and 2013. Using data on 180 debt restructurings – for both sovereign bonds and sovereign syndicated bank loans – this column argues that the roughly 75% ‘haircut’ Argentina imposed on its creditors in 2005 was an outlier. Greece’s ‘haircut’ of roughly 64% in 2012, by contrast, was in line with previous experience.

Lars Feld, Christoph Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, Volker Wieland, 20 February 2015

Claims that ‘austerity has failed’ are popular, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. This column argues that this narrative is factually wrong and ignores the reasons underlying the Greek crisis. The worst move for Greece would be to return to its old ways. Greece needs to realise that things could actually become much worse than they are now, particularly if membership in the Eurozone cannot be assured. Instead of looking back, Greece needs to continue building a functioning state and a functioning market economy.

Hans Holter, Dirk Krueger, Serhiy Stepanchuk, 20 February 2015

Since the Global Crisis, debt sustainability has received increasing attention. This column argues that the maximum sustainable debt level depends negatively on the progressivity of the tax system. The authors estimate that the US is still relatively far from the peak of its Laffer curve and from its maximally sustainable debt level. However, adopting a flat tax would raise the maximum sustainable debt from 330% to more than 350% of benchmark GDP, whereas adopting Danish-style progressivity would lower it to less than 250%.

Julio Escolano, Laura Jaramillo, Carlos Mulas-Granados, Gilbert Terrier, 27 February 2015

Fiscal consolidation is back at the top of the policy agenda. This column provides historical context by examining 91 episodes of fiscal consolidation in advanced and developing economies between 1945 and 2012. By focusing on cases in which the adjustment was necessary and desired in order to stabilise the debt-to-GDP ratio, the authors find larger average fiscal adjustments than previous studies. Most consolidation episodes resulted in stabilisation of the debt-to-GDP ratio, but at a new, higher level.

Jean-Pierre Landau, 02 December 2014

Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.

Jagjit Chadha, 02 November 2014

The impact of the stock and maturity of government debt on longer-term bond yields matters for monetary policy. This column assesses the magnitude and relative importance of overall bond supply and maturity effects on longer-term US Treasury interest rates using data from 1976 to 2008. Both factors have a significant impact on both forwards and term premia, but maturity of public debt appears to matter more. The results have implications for exit from unconventional policies, and also for the links between monetary and fiscal policy and debt management.

Biagio Bossone, Thomas Fazi, Richard Wood, 01 October 2014

High debt and deflation have afflicted Japan, the Eurozone, and the US. However, the monetary and fiscal policies implemented so far have been disappointing. This column discusses the importance of helicopter money in the form of overt monetary financing in addressing these problems. Overt money financing is the policy with the highest impact in raising demand and output without increasing public debt and interest rates. 

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Events

  • 17 - 18 August 2019 / Peking University, Beijing / Chinese University of Hong Kong – Tsinghua University Joint Research Center for Chinese Economy, the Institute for Emerging Market Studies at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development at Stanford University, the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University, BREAD, NBER and CEPR
  • 19 - 20 August 2019 / Vienna, Palais Coburg / WU Research Institute for Capital Markets (ISK)
  • 29 - 30 August 2019 / Galatina, Italy /
  • 4 - 5 September 2019 / Roma Eventi, Congress Center, Pontificia Università Gregoriana Piazza della Pilotta, 4, Rome, Italy / European Center of Sustainable Development , CIT University
  • 9 - 14 September 2019 / Guildford, Surrey, UK / The University of Surrey

CEPR Policy Research