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University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

Can Debt Relief Constrain Repressive Governments?

October 25, 2022
Brett L. Carter

Blog

In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Brett L. Carter, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, argues that international donors use the prospect of debt relief to constrain repressive governments and ultimately help stem the democratic recession.

The African continent is confronting the prospect of a new debt crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on government finances. The Russian government’s war against Ukraine has increased the cost of food and energy, and compelled investors to sell off government bonds in emerging markets. Rising interest rates in the United States will increase the cost of borrowing. The Chinese economy is struggling under the weight of Xi Jinping’s “Zero COVID” policy and accumulated real estate debt. In 2015, the International Monetary Fund announced that eight countries were in debt distress. By March 2022, 23 were. In June, public debt ratios reached a 20-year high. Africa’s debt-distressed governments “are unlikely to default” in 2022,” The Economist observed, “but face trouble by 2024.” There is some evidence that the debt crisis is especially acute for Africa’s non-democracies.

The impending debt crisis coincides with a general sense that Africa is experiencing a democratic recession. Voters are increasingly subject to intimidation and violence. Incumbent presidents are removing term limits. The longstanding norm against military coups is fading.

Can international donors use the prospect of debt relief to constrain repressive governments and ultimately help stem the democratic recession? In a recent article in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, I argue that they can.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.