Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

The Latest Third World Debt Crisis

Brown, who played a major part in helping tackle Africa’s debt crisis 20 years ago, said if a comprehensive solution were to be found this time around, the private sector had to step up.

Clearly, it didn’t get sorted 20 years ago then, did it?

There’s a useful answer too. Those places which adopted a roughly free market, roughly capitalist – however roughly too – economic stance are growing year on year. Like, say Bangladesh, 5 and 8% a year for a couple of decades now. Those that still have the Strong Man screwing everyone – Tanzania under Magufuli maybe – aren’t growing and can’t repay their debts. The answer is more market, more capitalism.

One useful side effect of a capitalist economic style is that it doesn’t become the country that owes the money. Those thieving foreign bastards invest in a specific project, one single firm or piece of land. This fails as an idea – ah well, tant pis, that does happen. But what happens then?

Quite, the capitalists lose their money just as if they had invested in sunshine from cucumbers at home. There’s no overhang of debt to be paid off. Bankruptcy, liquidation, we’re done.

It’s only if we continue to have a development or economic programme based upon state capitalism, or some government form of socialism, that the problem comes into play. Money is borrowed, the state guarantees it. When it gets stolen, sprayed up against the wall or just that usual unfortunateness of not working out happens then the country, the state, the peoples’ tax revenues, is on the hook for repayment.

So, how do we solve this repeating problem of state debt? This is, after all, the third time in just my lifetime that this has happened. 80s, late 90s, now. Everyone’s got to get together and forgive the debts of the thieving local bastards again.

It’s not an entire and pure match but those places that can’t repay are, largely enough, those where the government did the borrowing. Where it was private sector economic actors, without state guarantee, there isn’t a problem because there can’t be a problem. We have a system to deal with that, bankruptcy.

So, what’s our answer? Don’t lend to governments, only lend to private sector economic actors. Then, when things go wrong – as they will, often enough – the problem is already sorted. The company is bust? Ah, well, that’s capitalism for you.

Done and dusted, d’ye see?

If we only lend to things that can go bankrupt, as a country cannot, then we cannot have permanent unpayable debt burdens. Because bankruptcy.

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3 years ago

But then you’ll only lend money in cases where it makes sense!

3 years ago
Reply to  Esteban

Tut, tut. You’re saying that all those wicked people who won’t lend to Zimbabwe are right!!!!

3 years ago

You could liquidate the country. Who owns Yugoslavia’s debts?

John Galt
3 years ago
Reply to  jgh

Well, the IMF decided on 16th December 1992 that the 5 successor nations were liable for the debts of the Former Yugoslavia The International Monetary Fund has declared that five succcessor republics have inherited the debts and assets of the former Yugoslavia, and assigned percentages to each. The finding, reached Monday and announced today, is likely to serve as a guideline for foreign governments and foreign banks in assigning liabilities for the roughly $15 billion owed to overseas creditors, New York banking officials said. There is no prospect of early repayment by any of the republics except possibly Slovenia, which… Read more »

Ivor Chestikoff
Ivor Chestikoff
3 years ago

Ah, but if (big if) the project is a success and it is privately funded then those nasty capitalists make money.

Much better to give the money to governments because they can put the profits to good use in their countries, a virtuous circle.

Of course, in the highly unlikely event of a 3rd world government project making money that money tends to be siphoned off, disappearing into private bank accounts before reappearing as designer clothes on government officials’ wives.

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