In this illuminating work on external debt, Daniel Cohen explodes many myths currently popular among economists, bankers, and journalists about the nature of the debt problem, its origins, and its cure.
By the end of the 1980s the total debt of developing countries had passed the trillion-dollar mark. What should be done when the debt is heavily discounted, and countries pass the point at which they decide to default rather than service the debt in full? In this illuminating work on external debt, Daniel Cohen explodes many myths currently popular among economists, bankers, and journalists about the nature of the debt problem, its origins, and its cure. He skillfully brings complex theoretical issues to bear on the analysis of practical questions of economic policy. What is needed, he proposes, are clear rules that acknowledge the market price of the debt and deflate the fiction that a highly indebted country is solvent. Using clear, simple analytical models to illustrate his points, Cohen offers a realistic measure of national solvency in an international context. He then applies the framework to an analysis of the major debtor countries and discusses budget constraints, debt repudiation, and the economic fragility of heavily indebted nations.
Contents Intertemporal Budget Constraints • Can a Nation Escape Its Budget Constraint? Capacity versus Willingness to Pay • Voluntary and Involuntary Lending • A Solvency Index - Theory • Empirical Evaluation of the Solvency Index • Domestic and External Debt Constraints • The Fragility of Heavily Indebted Nations - Large Debt and Slow Growth
Daniel Cohen is Professor of Economics at the École Normale Supérieure and the Université de Paris-I. A member of the Council of Economic Analysis of the French Prime Minister, he is the author of The Wealth of the World and the Poverty of Nations, Our Modern Times: The Nature of Capitalism in the Information Age, Globalization and Its Enemies, and Three Lectures on Post-Industrial Society, all published by the MIT Press.
Cohen's book reports a careful study of sovereign debt. It is original and highly imaginative.
Elhanan Helpman, Televiv University
Cohen provides the definitive treatment of the analytics of foreign borrowing and—importantly—draws out the policy implications. Academics and policymakers will borrow heavily from this book and end up heavily in Cohen's debt.
Barry Eichengreen, University of California, Berkeley