Debt is central to the functioning of a modern economy. Firms can use it to finance investments in future productivity. Households can use it to finance lumpy purchases, such as big consumer durables, or a home. Sometimes, however, firms’ investments do not pan out or a household’s main earner loses his or her job. Countries’ legal systems generally recognize that in these cases, debtors and creditors alike—along with society at large—may be better off if there is an orderly procedure for reorganizing debts. (more…)
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.
There are a trillion reasons to care about who owns emerging market debt. That’s how much money global investors have poured into in these government bonds in recent years —$1 trillion. Who owns it, for how long and why it changes over time can shed light on the risks; a sudden reversal of money flowing out of a country can hurt. Shifts in the investor base also can have implications for a government’s borrowing costs.
What investors do next is a big question for emerging markets, and our new analysis takes some of the guesswork out of who owns your debt. The more you know your investors, the better you understand the potential risks and how to deal with them.
Sooner or later, and one way or the other, government debt in advanced economies will have to come down from the record levels reached in the wake of the global economic and euro area crises. There is no magic number for how much sovereign debt an economy can shoulder. And, as bringing down debt by cutting government spending or raising taxes comes at the risk of reducing growth and employment in the short term, there are arguments to not proceed too hastily. But eventually debt will have to be put back on a downward path in many countries. This will help rebuild fiscal buffers and cope with the costs of aging. So, what should governments do?
Our new analysis takes a closer look at the historical record and key trade-offs. The bottom line: it is possible to reduce debt when growth is low. Ultimately perseverance should pay off.
We're one month into 2013, and if past experience is any guide, by now many people will have all but forgotten the promises they made about the things they planned to do over the coming year. But unlike many of these resolutions, the ones made by most advanced economies to reduce their 2012 fiscal deficits were by and large kept.
In the midst of jittery financial markets, and global economic doom and gloom, it’s easy to become pessimistic. Public debt and fiscal deficits in many advanced economies remain very high. Nevertheless, important progress has been made in fiscal adjustment—the fiscal outlook in most countries is stronger than we expected two years ago. So to the pessimists I say, don’t lose sight of what’s been achieved. But, to the optimists (if there are any) I say, don’t underestimate what still needs to be done. The task that policymakers face is complicated. They need to ensure the public sector is not a source of instability by committing to a plan that will stabilize and then bring down public debt. At the same time, they need to make sure that fiscal tightening itself does not undermine the recovery.
The so-called BRIC nations—Brazil, Russia, India and China—could be a game changer for how low-income countries build their economic futures.
The growing economic and financial reach of the BRICs has seen them become a new source of growth for low-income countries (LICs).
LIC-BRIC ties—particularly trade, investment and development financing—have surged over the past decade. And the relationship could take on even more prominence after the global financial crisis, with stronger growth in the BRICs and their demand for LIC exports helping to buffer against sluggish demand in most advanced economies.
The potential benefits from LIC-BRIC ties are enormous.
But, so too are challenges and risks that must be managed if the LIC-BRIC relationship to support durable and balanced growth in LICs. (more…)
In various guises, the “Year of Living Dangerously” has been used to describe the global financial crisis, the policy response to the crisis, and its aftermath. But, we’ve slipped well beyond a year and the financial system is still flirting with danger. Financial stability risks may have eased, reflecting improvements in the economic outlook and continuing accommodative policies. But those supportive policies—while necessary to restart the economy—have also masked serious, underlying financial vulnerabilities that need to be addressed as quickly as possible. Many advanced economies are “living dangerously” because the legacy of high debt burdens is weighing on economic activity and balance sheets, keeping risks to financial stability elevated. At the same time, many emerging market countries risk overheating and the build-up of financial imbalances—in the context of rapid credit growth, increasing asset prices, and strong and volatile capital inflows. Here is our suggested roadmap for policymakers to address these vulnerabilities and risks, and achieve durable financial stability.