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 critically reviews recent work regarding the sustainability of public debt. It argues that Debt Sustainability Analyses (DSAs) should be more than mere mechanical simulation exercises. Instead, a DSA should be linked to some objective regarding the distribution of fiscal burdens and distortions over time (in the tradition of Barro’s 1979 tax smoothing objective). The paper discusses objective functions that yield simple and transparent fiscal policy rules.