The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper describes the evolution of ideas to apply bankruptcy reorganization principles to sovereign debt crises. Our focus is on policy proposals between the late 1970s and Anne Krueger's (2001) proposed "Sovereign Debt-Restructuring Mechanism," with brief reference to the economics literature on sovereign debt. We describe the perceived inefficiencies that motivate proposals, and how proposals seek to change debtor and creditor incentives. We find that there has been a moving concensus on what constitutes the underlying problem, but not on how to fix it. The range of proposed approaches remains broad and only recently shows some signs of narrowing.