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.
If interest rates (country spreads) rise, debt can rapidly be subject to a snowball effect, which becomes self-fulfilling with regard to the fundamentals themselves. This is a market imperfection, because we cannot be confident that the unaided market will choose the "good" over the "bad" equilibrium. We propose a policy intervention to deal with this structural weakness in the mechanisms of international capital flows. This is based on a simple taxonomy that breaks down the origin of crises into three components: confidence (spreads and currency crisis), fundamentals (real growth rate), and economic policy (primary deficit). Theory then suggests a set of circumstances in which a lender of first resort would be desirable. The policy would seek to short-circuit confidence crises, partly by using IMF support to improve ex ante incentives. Theory also illuminates the potential role of collective action clauses in reducing the risk of self-fulfilling debt crises.