The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. With nearly 300 released each year, working papers cover a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Andrew Berg, Enrico Berkes, Catherine Pattillo, Andrea Presbitero, and Yorbol Yakhshilikov
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
The World Bank and the IMF have adopted a debt sustainability framework (DSF) to evaluate the risk of debt distress in Low Income Countries (LICs). At the core of the DSF are empirically-based thresholds for each of five different measures of the debt burden (the 'debt threshold approach' DTA). The DSF contains a rule for aggregating the information contained in these five different variables which we label the 'worst-case aggregator' (WCA) in view of the fact that the DSF considers a breach of any one of the thresholds sufficient to indicate a high risk of debt distress. However, neither the DTA nor the WCA has heretofore been subject to empirical testing. We find that: (1) the DTA loses information relative to a simple proposed alternative; (2) the WCA is too conservative (predicting crises too often) in terms of the loss function used in the DSF; and (3) the WCA is less accurate than some simple proposed alternative aggregators as a predictor of debt distress.