NBER Working Papers by Christoph Trebesch

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Working Papers

October 2015The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829-2015
with Carmen M. Reinhart: w21664
Two centuries of Greek debt crises highlight the pitfalls of relying on external financing. Since its independence in 1829, the Greek government has defaulted four times on its external creditors – with striking historical parallels. Each crisis is preceded by a period of heavy borrowing from foreign private creditors. As repayment difficulties arise, foreign governments step in, help to repay the private creditors, and demand budget cuts and adjustment programs as a condition for the official bailout loans. Political interference from abroad mounts and a prolonged episode of debt overhang and financial autarky follows. We conclude that these cycles of external debt and dependence are a perennial theme of Greek history, as well as in other countries that have been “addicted” to foreign sav...
October 2014A Distant Mirror of Debt, Default, and Relief
with Carmen M. Reinhart: w20577
We take a first pass at quantifying the magnitudes of debt relief achieved through default and restructuring in two distinct samples: 1979-2010, focusing on credit events in emerging markets, and 1920-1939, documenting the official debt hangover in advanced economies that was created by World War I and its aftermath. We examine the economic performance of debtor countries during and after these overhang episodes, by tracing the evolution of real per capita GDP (levels and growth rates); sovereign credit ratings; debt servicing burdens relative to GDP, fiscal revenues, and exports; as well as the level of government debt (external and total). Across 45 crisis episodes for which data is available we find that debt relief averaged 21 percent of GDP for advanced economies (1932-1939) and 16 pe...

Forthcoming in Journal of the European Economic Association, 14:1, February 2016

July 2014Political Booms, Financial Crises
with Helios Herrera, Guillermo Ordoñez: w20346
We show that political booms, measured by the rise in governments' popularity, predict financial crises above and beyond other better-known early warning indicators, such as credit booms. This predictive power, however, only holds in emerging economies. We show that governments in emerging economies are more concerned about their reputation and tend to ride the short-term popularity benefits of weak credit booms rather than implementing politically costly corrective policies that would help prevent potential crises. We provide evidence of the relevance of this reputation mechanism.

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