Mr. Leonardo Martinez, Mr. Francisco Roch, Francisco Roldán, and Mr. Jeromin Zettelmeyer
This paper surveys the literature on sovereign debt from the perspective of understanding how sovereign debt differs from privately issue debt, and why sovereign debt is deemed safe in some countries but risky in others. The answers relate to the unique power of the sovereign. One the one hand, a sovereign has the power to tax, making debt relatively safe; on the other, it also has control over its territory and most of its assets, making debt enforcement difficult. The paper discusses debt contracts and the sovereign debt market, sovereign debt restructurings, and the empirical and theoretical literatures on the costs and causes of defaults. It describes the adverse impact of sovereign default risk on the issuing countries and what explains this impact. The survey concludes with a discussion of policy options to reduce sovereign risk, including fiscal frameworks that act as commitment devices, state-contingent debt, and independent and credible monetary policy.
International Monetary Fund. Legal Dept., International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department, and International Monetary Fund. Strategy, Policy, & Review Department
This paper undertakes a comprehensive review of the Fund’s sovereign arrears policies. Staff assesses that the Fund’s Lending into Arrears to Private Creditors (LIA) policy (established in 1989 and last reviewed in 2002) remains broadly appropriate, while recommending some improvements given the experience gained over the last 20 years. Staff also sees merit in codifying the existing practice guiding the Fund in preemptive debt restructurings into a Fund policy, together with an amendment focusing on debt transparency. Given limited experience with the application of the LIOA policy (established in 2015), staff does not propose any amendments but only one restatement confirming current practice. Given recent developments in the international creditor community, staff proposes refining the Fund’s arrears policies with respect to multilateral creditors. Finally, recent developments raise questions about the perimeter between official bilateral and private claims, with significant implications for the Fund’s arrears policies.
We use a new, comprehensive data set on the sovereign debt investor base to document three novel empirical facts: (i) sovereign debt is repatriated - that is, shifted from external private to domestic investors - prior to sovereign defaults; (ii) not all crises are equal: evidence for repatriation during banking and currency crises is more limited; and (iii) the nature of defaults matters: external investors do not leave during preemptive debt restructurings. We further show that repatriation appears to be prevalent when defaults happen in large markets with low capital controls. The data set we use is uniquely suited to analyzing investor base dynamics during rare crises due to its large cross-section and time series, covering 180 countries from 1989 to 2020.