The state of the public finances has worsened substantially in the main advanced economies as a result of the 2008–09 global financial and economic crisis. For some “peripheral” European countries, market participants and some commentators occasionally seem to believe that default (here intended as some form of debt restructuring) will sooner or later inevitably occur. Concerns about fiscal solvency in those countries have been reflected in financial market pressures, large default risk premiums on sovereign bonds, and downgrades by rating agencies. At the time of writing (late August 2010), credit default swap spreads are about 900 basis points in Greece and 300 basis points in Ireland and Portugal. In general, volatility remains high and every auction of government paper—especially in Europe, including in the largest countries—is closely monitored to discern possible triggers of abrupt market reactions.
In our view, the risk of debt restructuring is currently significantly overestimated. Although it is generally wise to assume that market developments reflect economic fundamentals, market overreaction does occur from time to time, with adverse implications for countries’ borrowing costs and debt dynamics. For example, considering data on sovereign bond spreads over the past decades, markets sounded false alarms in the vast majority of episodes.
[…] challenge stems mainly from the advanced economies’ large primary deficits, not from a high average interest rate on debt. Thus, default would not significantly reduce the need for major fiscal adjustment. In contrast, the 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 not be in the interest of the citizens of the countries in question. Fiscal adjustment supported by reforms that enhance economic growth is a more effective response.
”I gave the order not to pay the interest and to go into default,” Mr Correa told reporters in Guayaquil. ”We know very well who we are up against — real monsters.”
Ecuador declared default on its 2012 global bonds on Friday over charges the debt was illegally contracted by past governments, leaving investors to deal with its second debt default in less than a decade.
President Rafael Correa’s decision to not pay a $31 million coupon on the government’s 2012 bonds means the country’s two other global bond issues due in 2015 and 2030 are also considered in default, according to cross-default clauses in the contracts.