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Laskaridis, Christina (2021) Debt sustainability: towards a history of theory, policy and measurement. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Since the early 2000s, debt sustainability is assessed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through a policy template called Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA). This thesis examines the origins of Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) by identifying specific episodes between the origin of these institutions and the early 2000’s when the DSA template was created. The thesis identifies three key factors that led to the development of Debt Sustainability Analysis: developments in theory, policy, and measurement efforts. The thesis examines the rise and fall of different conceptual and operational approaches that try to capture debt repayment difficulties, culminating in the DSA template in the early 2000s. To address how and why DSA developed and gained prominence, the thesis uses a theoretical framework that draws from the history of economics and quantification within the social sciences that views the techniques of economists as historically constituted forms of economic practice. The thesis argues that alongside developments in economic theory, the creation and use of such tools was driven by protracted political disagreement on how to resolve debt crises. The thesis examined the evolution of the politics of knowledge of who decides what can and cannot be paid and how this enabled creditors to prioritise the cost to creditors of restructuring debt over that of failing to restructure the debt to alleviate the situation of debtors. The role and purpose of the DSA template was part of a broader drive to bestow rigour, credibility and legitimacy on the policies and practices of powerful institutions, with the consequence that over time, the conflicts over debt repayment difficulties were increasingly displaced into technical tools.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Ourania Dimakou
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2021 16:08

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