NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Coordination and Crisis in Monetary Unions

Mark Aguiar, Manuel Amador, Emmanuel Farhi, Gita Gopinath

NBER Working Paper No. 20277
Issued in July 2014
NBER Program(s):   EFG   IFM   ME

We characterize fiscal and monetary policy in a monetary union with the potential for rollover crises in sovereign debt markets. Member-country fiscal authorities lack commitment to repay their debt and choose fiscal policy independently. A common monetary authority chooses inflation for the union, also without commitment. We first describe the existence of a fiscal externality that arises in the presence of limited commitment and leads countries to over borrow; this externality rationalizes the imposition of debt ceilings in a monetary union. We then investigate the impact of the composition of debt in a monetary union, that is the fraction of high-debt versus low-debt members, on the occurrence of self-fulfilling debt crises. We demonstrate that a high-debt country may be less vulnerable to crises and have higher welfare when it belongs to a union with an intermediate mix of high- and low-debt members, than one where all other members are low-debt. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom that all countries should prefer a union with low-debt members, as such a union can credibly deliver low inflation. These findings shed new light on the criteria for an optimal currency area in the presence of rollover crises.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20277

Published: Mark Aguiar & Manuel Amador & Emmanuel Farhi & Gita Gopinath, 2015. "Coordination and Crisis in Monetary Unions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1727-1779. citation courtesy of

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