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The D-cycle: deficit, debt and default in developing countries under the current global economic order

Publication date: 
Tuesday 31 March 2015
Francisco Mango y Enrique Aschieri

This article aims at investigating the reasons why, with few exceptions, debts accumulated by developing countries could not be paid off during the second half of the 20th century, at least in the sense given by Keynes referred to the fact that they are effectively cancelled as long as they are repaid with countries’ resources.

In a fiduciary international monetary system where developed countries’ currency units act as reserves, developing countries’ own resources are basically constituted by positive results in their balance of trade. Nevertheless, the global economic order prevailing, with some shades, as an aftermath of war, succeeded in consolidating developed countries’ protectionist schemes, whose import expenditures are the main means through which developing countries can effectively cancel their debt commitments, in Keynes’ sense.

Within this framework, the current global economic order promotes the formation of a recurrent medium-term cycle in the dynamics of growth of developing countries, which in the present work will be defined as the D-cycle: deficit, debt and default. Given the protectionism present in developed countries, this cycle begins with a first stage where developing countries must become indebted so as to be able to cover the demand for imports that are vital for their economic growth. The cycle follows with a second stage, in which indebtedness persists but it is directed towards financing mainly the repayment of the debt previously accumulated and, to a lesser degree, essential imports, thus resigning economic growth. In the last stage, suffocated by the burden of foreign debt services and the need to resume growth, developing countries incur default of one part of their obligations, which implies more than simply default on payment.