Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Old Debates, New Challenges

CIGI Paper No. 32

May 29, 2014

Ten years ago, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis and subsequent Argentine default, the international community debated how to best promote the timely, effective restructuring of sovereign debt. It focused largely on the merits of a so-called statutory approach, versus the voluntary use of contractual terms designed to facilitate restructurings. This debate is once more on the international policy agenda and is again framed as statutory versus contractual approaches. This paper outlines the problems impeding timely sovereign debt restructurings, identifies the policy responses proposed and discussed 10 years ago in response to financial crises, and discusses the elements of old debates and how they can remain relevant in today’s new challenges. The paper concludes with three areas for further analysis: expanding the scope of contractual clauses that can help facilitate restructurings; accounting, tax and regulatory frameworks and identifying possible changes to remove impeding obstacles; and improving the process for negotiating debt restructurings, as well as creating a Sovereign Debt Forum for exchange of information.

Part of Series

CIGI Papers Series

CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.

About the Author

James A. Haley is a senior fellow at CIGI and a Canada Institute global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC.