Acting Collectively: A Better Way to Restructure Government Debt

By Sean Hagan 

(version in Español)

To restructure or not to restructure? That is a question few governments would like to face. Yet, if a country does find itself with an unsustainable debt burden, one way or another, it will have to be restructured. And if that time comes, it is better for the debtor, creditors, and the entire financial system that the restructuring be carried out in a prompt, predictable, and orderly manner.

The global financial crisis ushered in a new wave of sovereign debt crises that has reinvigorated discussions over the current framework for sovereign debt restructuring. The experience with Greece’s debt restructuring in 2012 and the ongoing litigation involving Argentina, in particular, provide a salutary reminder that vulnerabilities remain.

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No End in Sight: Early Lessons on Crisis Management

In times of crisis, choices must be made. In the most recent global economic crisis, policymakers moved quickly to stabilize the system, providing massive financial support, which is the right response in the beginning of any crisis. But that only treated the symptoms of the global financial meltdown, and now a rare opportunity is being thrown away to tackle the underlying causes. In our new paper, we analyze the policy choices made during the crisis and compare them to a number of past ones. It turns out the phases of this crisis followed the same pattern as previous ones, but policymakers made different choices this time around. This post lays out the lessons that we should learn.

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