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Sovereign debt restructuring: The centrality of the IMF's role

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Sean Hagan (PIIE)

Working Papers 20-13

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Over the past 40 years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has played a central role in the sovereign debt restructuring process. If the COVID-19 pandemic leads to a significant wave of sovereign debt distress, this role will be closely scrutinized. The paper analyzes how IMF policies have evolved to shape the incentives of sovereigns and their creditors at each stage of the sovereign debt restructuring process. It also identifies a number of issues that the IMF will likely have to address as a result of the pandemic, including (1) assessment of debt sustainability in a macroeconomic environment of considerable uncertainty, (2) treatment of official bilateral creditors, and (3) potential benefits—and challenges—of introducing additional incentives to maximize creditor participation in any debt restructuring.

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