NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Towards a Political-Economic Theory of Domestic Debt

Allan Drazen

NBER Working Paper No. 5890
Issued in January 1997
NBER Program(s):   IFM

A political-economic model of the composition of government debt, that is, whether it is issued to domestic or foreign holders, is presented. The key determinant will be the political constraints on repudiation of foreign and domestic debt, which will determine the nature of the domestic political equilibrium. Economic and political factors determine the effective cost of borrowing at home or abroad, and with the ability to segment markets the government acts like a discriminating monopsonist in placing its debt. A country that expects to face a low effective foreign interest rate, reflecting the expectation that it won't be forced to repay its foreign debts in full, will be characterized by high government spending, a high government budget deficit, low domestic saving and thus a high trade balance deficit so that the domestic economy will look mismanaged in terms of a number of macroeconomic indicators. Very lenient foreign assistance programs would have the same effect.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5890

Published: Calvo, G. and M. King (eds.) The Debt Burden and its Consequences for Monetary Policy. London: Macmillan, 1998.

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