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.
Laura Jaramillo, Carlos Mulas-Granados, and Elijah Kimani
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
What explains public debt spikes since the end of WWII? To answer this question, this paper identifies 179 debt spike episodes from 1945 to 2014 across advanced and developing countries. We find that debt spikes are not rare events and their probability increases with time. We then show that large public debt spikes are neither driven by high primary deficits nor by output declines but instead by sizable stock-flow adjustments (SFAs). We also find that SFAs are poorly forecasted, which can affect debt sustainability analyses, and are associated with a higher probability of suffering non-declining debt paths in the aftermath of public debt spikes.