Staff Position Notes (SPNs) showcase new policy-related analysis and research by IMF departments. These notes are generally brief, written in nontechnical language, and are aimed at a broad audience interested in economic policy issues, including staff involved in mission work, members of the Executive Board, and persons outside the Fund. This series replaced the Policy Discussion Papers series at the end of 2008. Most SPNs are around 25 pages, allowing for only a couple of simple equations and several tables and charts, which distinguishes them from the longer, and generally more technical, Working Papers.
Carlo Cottarelli, Paolo Mauro, Lorenzo Forni, and Jan Gottschalk
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
This note summarizes the main arguments put forward by some market commentators who argue that default is inevitable, and presents a rebuttal for each argument in turn. Their main arguments focus on the size of the adjustment and continued market concerns reflected in government bond spreads. The essence of our reasoning is that the challenge stems mainly from the advanced economies' large primary deficits. Thus, by lowering the interest bill while triggering the need to move to primary balance or a small primary surplus, default would not significantly reduce the need for major fiscal adjustment. In contrast, the emerging economies that defaulted in recent decades did so primarily as a result of high debt servicing costs, often in the context of major external shocks. We conclude that default would be ineffective and undesirable in today's advanced economies.