Martin Wolf’s column today looks at some interesting historical analysis by the IMF. Tucked away in its latest World Economic Outlook is an take on high-debt-to-GDP incidents. It’s a treat for fans of economic history. The IMF dug out data on every incident since 1875 where a country’s debt topped 100 per cent of its GDP – and then tracked what happened to that ratio over the following 15 years.
The results fall into four broad periods: the last quarter of the 19th century (what the IMF calls ‘nation-building and the railroad boom’), the periods after the two world wars, and the last quarter of the 20th century (the genesis of which lay in the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the IMF says). Read more