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 addresses how public debt should be managed to reduce the cost of private sector bailouts. It uses a tax smoothing model to show that bailouts affect the timing of government deficits and surpluses as well as the composition of public debt. In general, public debt managers will have to monitor the private sector’s leverage and portfolio composition in order to design the tax smoothing policy. This contrasts with Ricardian models where households monitor the government’s debt. The moral hazard aspect of defaults is also shown to be important in determining an optimal government debt strategy.