Category Archives: deleveraging

3/12/17: Russian and BRICS debt dynamics since 2012

Back in 2014, Russia entered a period of recessionary economic dynamics, coupled with the diminishing access to foreign debt markets. Ever since, I occasionally wrote about the positive impact of the economy's deleveraging from debt. Here is the latest evidence from the BIS on the subject, positing Russia in comparative to the rest of the BRICS economies:

In absolute terms, Russian deleveraging has been absolutely dramatic. Since 2014, the total amounts of debt outstanding against Russia have shrunk more than 50 percent. The deleveraging stage in the Russian economy actually started in 1Q 2014 (before Western sanctions) and the deleveraging dynamics have been the sharpest during 2014 (before the bulk of Western sanctions). This suggests that the two major drivers for deleveraging have been: economic growth slowdown (2013-1Q 2014) and economic recession (H2 2014-2016), plus devaluation of the ruble in late 2014 - early 2015.

The last chart on the right shows that deleveraging has impacted all BRICS (with exception of South Africa) starting in 2H 2013 - 1H 2014 (except for China, where deleveraging only lasted between 2H 2015 and through the end of 2016, although deleveraging was very sharp during that brief period).

In other words, there is very little evidence that any aspect of Russian debt dynamics had anything to do with the Western sanctions, and all the evidence to support the proposition that the deleveraging is organic to an economy going through the structural growth slowdown period.

20/7/17: Euro Area’s Great non-Deleveraging

A neat data summary for the European 'real economic debt' dynamics since 2006:

In the nutshell, the Euro area recovery:

  1. Government debt to GDP ratio is up from the average of 66% in 2006-2007 to 89% in 2016;
  2. Corporate debt to GDP ratio is up from the average of 72% in 2006-2007 to 78% in 2016; and
  3. Household debt to GDP ratio is down (or rather, statistically flat) from the average of 58.5% in 2006-2007 to 58% in 2016.
The Great Austerity did not produce a Great Deleveraging. Even the Great Wave of Bankruptcies that swept across much of the Euro area in 2009-2014 did not produce a Great Deleveraging. The European Banking Union, and the Genuine Monetary Union and the Great QE push by the ECB - all together did not produce a Great Deleveraging. 

Total real economic debt stood at 195%-198% of GDP in 2006-2007 - at the peak of previous asset bubble and economic 'expansion' dynamism, and it stands at 225% of GDP in 2016, after what has been described as 'robust' economic recovery. 

10/2/16: "Чем хуже, тем лучше"

My latest column “Чем хуже, тем лучше. Откуда у российской экономики все больше сил“ for is out at in Russian.

This time, I am covering the topic of how Russian economy deleveraging leads to a future uplift in its potential growth, before tackling the cost of such deleveraging that is driving Russian public opinion of policies and direction of the State in a follow up column.

4/2/15: Debt Overhang and Sluggish Growth

Debt overhang and its impact on growth has been a rather controversial topic over the recent years. One of the key contributors to the debate is Kenneth Rogoff. Rogoff has a new paper out on the topic, together with Stephanie Lo, titled "Secular stagnation, debt overhang and other rationales for sluggish growth, six years on" published by the Bank for International Settlements (

In the paper, Rogoff and Lo state that "there is considerable controversy over why sluggish economic growth persists across many advanced economies six years after the onset of the financial crisis. Theories include a secular deficiency in aggregate demand, slowing innovation, adverse demographics, lingering policy uncertainty, post-crisis political fractionalisation, debt overhang, insufficient fiscal stimulus, excessive financial regulation, and some mix of all of the above." Rogoff and Lo survey "the alternative viewpoints" on the causes of slow growth. The authors argue that "until significant pockets of private, external and public debt overhang further abate, the potential role of other headwinds to economic growth will be difficult to quantify."

Rogoff and Lo focus strongly on the effects of debt overhang on growth. "In our view, the leading candidate as an explanation for why growth has taken so long to normalise is that pockets of the global economy are still experiencing the typical sluggish aftermath of a financial crisis… The experience in advanced countries is certainly consistent with a great deal of evidence on leverage cycles, for example the empirical work of Schularick and Taylor (2012), who examine data for a cross-section of advanced countries going back to the late 1800s and find that the last half-century has brought an unprecedented era of financial vulnerability and potentially destabilising leverage cycles. Moreover, focusing on more recent events, Mian and Sufi’s (2014) estimates suggest that the effects of US household leverage might be large enough to explain the entire decline in both house prices and durable consumption."

Still, their conclusion is very cautious. Instead of assigning direct causality from debt to growth, they suggest increased indeterminacy of the relationship between other variables and growth in the presence of high debt overhangs. They do reinforce the point that the argument about debt overhang relates to the total real economic debt (governments, households and non-financial corporations), not solely to government debt alone.