Interest-Growth Differentials and Debt Limits in Advanced Economies

Author/Editor:

Philip Barrett

Publication Date:

April 6, 2018

Electronic Access:

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Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.

Summary:

Do persistently low nominal interest rates mean that governments can safely borrow more? To addresses this question, I extend the model of Ghosh et al. [2013] to allow for persistent stochastic changes in nominal interest and growth rates. The key model parameter is the long-run difference between nominal interest and growth rates; if negative, maximum sustainable debts (debt limits) are unbounded. I show how both VAR- and spectral-based methods produce negative point estimates of this long-run differential, but cannot reject positive values at standard significance levels. I calibrate the model to the UK using positive but statistically plausible average interest-growth differentials. This produces debt limits which increase by only around 5% GDP as interest rates fall after 2008. In contrast, only a tiny change in the long-run average interest-growth differential – from the 95th to the 97.5th percentile of the distribution – is required to move average debt limits by the same amount.

Series:

Working Paper No. 18/82

Subject:

English

Publication Date:

April 6, 2018

ISBN/ISSN:

9781484350980/1018-5941

Stock No:

WPIEA2018082

Price:

$18.00 (Academic Rate:$18.00)

Format:

Paper

Pages:

55

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