IMF Turns Negative On Economy

Government policies aimed at reducing a household’s debt relative to its assets—and its debt service payments relative to its income—could be an inexpensive way to mitigate the negative effects of household deleveraging on economic activity. Such policies are particularly relevant for economies today that have limited scope for expansionary macroeconomic policies and in which the financial sector has already received government support.

Bold and well-designed household debt restructuring programs such as those implemented in the United States in the 1930s and in Iceland today can significantly reduce the number of household defaults and foreclosures. That helps prevent downward spirals of declining house prices and lower demand. Once the mortgages are restructured to be more affordable, their market value rises, and the government can sell them, using the revenue to offset the initial cost to the taxpayer.