Currency Mismatches, Debt Intolerance and Original Sin: Why They Are Not the Same and Why it Matters
Recent years have seen the development of a large literature on balance sheet factors in emerging-market financial crises. In this paper we discuss three concepts widely used in this literature. Two of them original sin' and debt intolerance' seek to explain the same phenomenon, namely, the volatility of emerging-market economies and the difficulty these countries have in servicing and repaying their debts. The debt-intolerance school traces the problem to institutional weaknesses of emerging-market economies that lead to weak and unreliable policies, while the original-sin school traces the problem instead to the structure of global portfolios and international financial markets. The literature on currency mismatches, in contrast, is concerned with the consequences of these problems and with how they are managed by the macroeconomic and financial authorities. Thus, the hypotheses and problems to which these three terms refer are analytically distinct. The tendency to use them synonymously has been an unnecessary source of confusion.
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