Self-fulfilling debt crises, fiscal policy and investment Articles uri icon

publication date

  • July 2021


  • 103475


  • 131

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-1996

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-0353


  • This paper studies the circular relationship between sovereign credit risk, government fiscal and debt policy, and output. I consider a sovereign default model with fiscal policy and private capital accumulation. I show that, when fiscal policy responds to borrowing conditions in the sovereign debt market, multiple equilibria exist where the expectations of lenders are self-fulfilling. In the bad equilibrium, pessimistic beliefs make sovereign debt costly. The government substitutes borrowing with taxation, which depresses private investment and future output, increases default probabilities and verifies lenders' beliefs. This result is reminiscent of the European debt crisis of 2010¿12: while recessionary, fiscal austerity may be the government best response to excessive borrowing costs during a confidence crisis. The extent of this type of crises can be reduced by the intervention of an external official lender committing to provide liquidity, or by policies aimed at sustaining private investment.


  • Economics
  • Politics


  • fiscal austerity; multiple equilibria; self-fulfilling debt crises; sovereign default