Adonis Diaries

History of Sovereign Debts: Twelve lessons

Posted on: November 23, 2010

In the French book “We are all ruined in 10 years: Last chance for resolving sovereign debts” Jacques Attali described the history of the creation of sovereign debts since Europe Medieval Age and then the USA.  Chapter 5 offers 12 lessons that a review of this history revealed on sovereign debts.  This post is an abridged article and a few critical opinions.

Lesson one: Public debts are expenses created by current generations to be resolved by the next generations regardless of the consequences they had no saying in it. Public debts are contracted by a supposedly immortal entity that no one is eligible to verify the quality of services offered and this entity can pay only the interest portions indefinitely (without reducing the principal) as long as financial markets are agreeable to.  Public debts are meant to supporting current generation with expected future money generated by later generations.

Lesson two:  Public debts could be used for economic growth. When incurred debts are invested on infrastructure and educational systems then, internal market are expanded and economic growth permits increases in fiscal revenues.  Thus, savings in the budget can be allocated to repaying the interest on debts.  For example, US President James Mason borrowed money from a British bank to pay Napoleon of France the price of the Greater Louisiana colony that Napoleon used to fight England with.  This kind of public debt expanded the territory and the internal market of the US, and prevented France from further meddling on the borders of te US.

Lesson three:  Public debts encourage government for creating financial instruments that will ultimately be use against its advantage. A simple example and so relevent today, creating paper money covered by gold and then issuing more paper money than reserve gold can cover.  The US covers the surplus dollars by threatening with military interventions or enforcing financial embargoes if a State refuses to using the dollar as the main currency in trade and commerce.

Lesson four: External and internal public debts are directly interrelated. When a State decides to default it might start by temporary suspending paying interest on due date if refinancing negotiation failed; coupons of lesser values are issued.  Property values drop 35% within 6 years; share values decline 55% within 3 years; unemployment increases 7% within 4 years, and production rate drop 9% within 2 years.  If you notice that many of these consequences are effectively taking place then, your State has defaulted but was not transparent in declaring the difficult situation.

Lesson five: Public debts are condemned to increase naturally if a government does not take measures to reducing unproductive spending.

Lesson six: Public debts are more sustainable when financed internally. For example, Japan is able to sustain the highest ratio of 245% public debts to GNP because most of the debts are financed internally through the savings of the Japanese citizens and enterprises.

Lesson seven: Debtor States control creditors as much as the latter think they are in control. All indicate that trends in growing sovereign debts in the richer and developed nations are not going to change till 2014.  In that year, it is expected that Japan public debts (mostly internal) will reach 250% of its GNP, Italy 130%, England 100 %,  the USA 100% (or $20 trillion, the interest alone representing 400% of its fiscal yearly revenues), France 95%, and Germany 90% of GNP.  The US will have to reimburse $850 billion in 2012 and finance one trillion.

Lesson eight: As financial crisis is imminent, a government generally considers that his case particular and will eventually get out unscathed. In the medium-term after defaulting, a State witnesses increased internal unrests, in frequency and in violence; government creates a preemptive war on a neighboring State or to a weaker creditor State in order to absorb the surplus unemployed citizens in the lower middle class; and the State is reduced to a vassal position to more dominant creditor nations:  the defaulting State is unable to secure more loans for many years.

Lesson nine: Financial crisis relevant to public debts depends more on subjective confidence of creditor markets than on the ratio level of the debts to GNP or fiscal revenues. Invariably, States unable to generate enough fiscal revenues so that 50% of the budget are dedicated to paying interests on sovereign debts are in deep trouble.  Many developed Nations can sustain up to 300% of debt to GNP for several years (Japan and the USA), while developing countries crumble under 50% ratio, simply because the political system is unstable and unable to bring in at least 50% of the budget to cover paying interest on debts.

Lesson ten: Resolution of public debts gores through 8 strategies; inflation option is always one of the strategies. After WWII in 1945, the public debts of the England was 250% on its GNP, France 110% (which represented 10 fiscal years of revenues), and the USA was 100% of GNP.  These countries adopted the inflation plan for 30 consecutive years, factitiously reducing the ratio.  With steady economic growth, and since when prices of commodities increase they never come down, the average yearly income increased, but it was mostly hidden by the inflation factor. For example, the Chinese worker with a salary less than $1,000 is saving half his earning so that the Chinese government finances the growing external debts of the “rich States” in order to maintaining the “standard of living” of their citizens that effectively reflects 30 years of inflation policy.  Fact is, one of the methods for sustaining inflation was creating credit cards with limits up to 50 times the actual earning of the individual!

Lesson eleven: Almost all  heavily indebted nations end up deciding to defaulting on payments. In 1770, Adam Smith wrote, (England sovereign debts amounted to 140% of its GNP): “At a level of accumulation of national debts, there are no examples that the debts have ever been repaid.  Public revenues were always freed to be spent but never to paying off any debts. Governments prefer to defaulting, occasionally admitting the debts, occasionally pretending to have paid off debts, but always incurring a real debt.”

Lesson twelve:  All responsible governments must refrain financing the functioning of the government by public debts and limit investment on their capability for reimbursement. Thomas Jefferson recommended, and then imposed his view when he became President to the new Independent America, that loans should never be contracted out by States for longer than 19 years (related to life expectancy in those days) so that future generations do not have to suffer decisions of the living ones.  Any public debt contracted for preparing to war or fomenting civil wars is a capital sin that will diminish the power of the State and set the stage for direct meddling in its internal affairs. Generally, other powerful nations will come to the rescue of the defeated creditor State and rob the victor of any short-term benefits.  Consequently, the trade of the defeated State will be transferred to the next dominant powers in order to stabilizing its economy.

It is unavoidable from now on that complete transparency on sovereign debts be mandated to all debtor States since public debts are at the heart of geopolitical considerations and dangers.  Management of public debts must adhere to four principles:

First:  Comprehension of public debts must be disseminated to all tax paying and voting citizens.

Second:  Public debts must be controlled and reviewed at all levels of the government.

Third:  Political discourse must be oriented to discouraging the contracting of further debts.

Four:  Any decision for incurring additional public debts must be discussed at all political and social levels for the pertinent utility of the debts.  Budgets must define the dividing lines between public spending and private spending.

Note:   The emerging States and most of Latin America countries are experiencing steady drop of their public debts to an average of 40% of GNP by 2014 while the “richer and powerful nations” are increasing their public debts.  My question is:  If almost all States have incurred public debts then, who are the creditors?   China economy has saved 2.5 trillion and Brazil and Turkey less than 500 billion.  All these savings cannot cover the amount of necessary public debts required by the debtor nations.  Fact is, world finance is functioning on worthless paper money and other financial tools transmitted here and there to give the illusion that the system is functioning.

2 Responses to "History of Sovereign Debts: Twelve lessons"

[…] Twelve lessons: From history of Sovereign Debts […]

[…] Twelve lessons: From history of Sovereign Debts […]

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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