Avoiding a Lost Decade - Sovereign Debt Workouts in the Post-COVID Era
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
All sovereign debt restructurings risk undershooting (providing less debt relief than is needed to restore the country to long-term sustainability) or overshooting (extracting more debt relief from creditors than turns out to have actually been necessary). Of these, undershooting will be the greater risk in sovereign debt workouts in the post-COVID era. Bondholders can be expected to prefer short and shallow debt restructurings that provide near-term debt relief (time enough to sell out of sticky positions). As for the future, creditors will endorse Doris Day’s assessment — que será será. For their part, politicians in the debtor country may also prefer a quick restructuring that provides abundant short-term debt relief even if it complicates the life of the next administration. The last time a systemic emerging market sovereign debt crisis was handled through a series of short and shallow debt restructurings was in the 1980s. It bequeathed to the debtor countries what is still called the Lost Decade. Can a similar fate be avoided in the decade that has just begun?