Friday, September 3, 2010

Sovereign Debt: Wiggle room

September 2, 2010

One consequence of the deepest recession since the Depression has been the biggest peacetime build-up of public debt the rich world has ever seen. Some reckon that the debt position of many rich countries is now unsustainable. It is a measure of just how nervous people have become about the mountain of debt that the IMF—not usually known for taking doveish views—concluded in two papers released on September 1st that there is too much pessimism about public finances.

The IMF argues that despite historically high debt-to-GDP ratios, many countries still have room for fiscal manoeuvre. Typically, the debate on the point at which a country’s debt burden spirals out of control has tried to identify a single debt-to-GDP threshold, above which things are no longer sustainable. The fund’s economists argue that a universal debt limit does not make sense.


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