Article | Journal of International Money and Finance | December 2010

Nominal versus Indexed Debt: A Quantitative Horse Race

by Laura Alfaro and Fabio Kanczuk

Abstract

The main arguments in favor of and against nominal and indexed debt are the incentive to default through inflation versus hedging against unforeseen shocks. We model and calibrate these arguments to assess their quantitative importance. We use a dynamic equilibrium model with tax distortion, government outlays uncertainty, and contingent-debt service. Our framework also recognizes that contingent debt can be associated with incentive problems and lack of commitment. Thus, the benefits of unexpected inflation are tempered by higher interest rates. We obtain that costs from inflation more than offset the benefits from reducing tax distortions. We further discuss sustainability of nominal debt in developing (volatile) countries.

Keywords: Borrowing and Debt; Motivation and Incentives; Inflation and Deflation; System Shocks; Taxation; Risk and Uncertainty; Framework; Problems and Challenges; Interest Rates; Cost; Developing Countries and Economies; Service Operations;

Citation:

Alfaro, Laura, and Fabio Kanczuk. "Nominal versus Indexed Debt: A Quantitative Horse Race." Journal of International Money and Finance 29, no. 8 (December 2010): 1706–1726. (Also Harvard Business School Working Paper No. 05-053 and NBER Working Paper No. 13131.)