Experts and Practitioners Gather at Princeton to Discuss Sovereign Debt

May 12, 2023

Nearly all governments borrow money, from a variety of sources, and for a variety of purposes. What determines the terms at which governments borrow; the means by which creditors price sovereign risk; and the implications of debt for social and economic development? These questions are especially important in 2023, when an estimated sixty nations are in, or at significant risk of, sovereign debt distress.

Amaney Jamal

SPIA Dean Amaney Jamal welcomes DebtCon6 attendees.
Photo: Sameer Khan

Since 2016, the Sovereign Debt Research and Management Conference (colloquially known as DebtCon) has brought together academics from various disciplines; those working in the policy and intergovernmental sectors; and individuals working in the private sector to address these issues. In 2023, the Niehaus Center co-sponsored the sixth of these meetings, DebtCon6. Approximately 180 individuals gathered in Princeton April 27-29 for a range of plenary sessions and paper presentations – and for lots of informal conversation around participants’ shared fascination with sovereign debt.

Topics of discussion included how to improve the international architecture for address debt defaults and restructurings; how the presence of newer creditors (including, but not limited to, China) affects relationships among creditors; how the needs of borrowing countries differ according to region, country size and debt profiles; and how countries’ internal politics affect their borrowing choices as well as how the costs and benefits of debt are distributed within societies.

Reza Baqir

Former Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Reza Baqir.
Photo: Sameer Khan

We were fortunate to be joined by scholars, policymakers, activists and investors from a range of countries and institutions. Participants hailed from Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, France, Ghana, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, among many others. In the policy sphere, some of the institutions represented include the Africa Legal Support Facility, Interamerican Development Bank, the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, as well as at various national central banks and finance ministries. Academic participants came from the fields of economics, history, law, political science and public policy, among others. 

The meeting was organized by Layna Mosley (Princeton), Anna Gelpern (Georgetown Law and Petersen Institute for International Economics) and Ugo Panizza (Geneva Graduate Institute).  The meeting also was the inaugural event for the new Princeton Sovereign Finance Lab, part of the Niehaus Center. Other meeting sponsors included (at Princeton) the Julis Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance, the International Economics Section, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the SPIA/University Center for Human Values Law initiative. Sponsors elsewhere included the Georgetown Institute for International Economic Law, the Sovereign Debt Forum, the Center for Finance and Development at the Geneva Graduate Institute and the Open Society Foundation.