Riding the rollercoaster: Subnational debt in turbulent times

Authors: Acauã Brochado and Sean Dougherty

With interest rates at their highest levels in two decades, subnational governments (SNGs) are grappling with growing debt sustainability concerns. This paper investigates SNGs’ financing vulnerabilities by examining their debt levels and sensitivity to interest rate fluctuations. It provides an in-depth analysis of SNG debt portfolios, with a particular focus on marketable debt or bonds. While most SNG bonds have fixed rates and long maturities, some jurisdictions are significantly exposed to interest rate and foreign currency risks. Simulations reveal that interest expenses could rise substantially for some SNGs. Yet, worryingly, the variation in borrowing costs among SNGs within countries is often limited, suggesting potential weaknesses in market discipline. To navigate these challenges, the paper briefly explores how well-crafted fiscal rules, tax autonomy, and insolvency frameworks can help mitigate risks. It also highlights the need for further assessment of bank loans, as systematic information remains scarce. The paper provides insights for policymakers seeking to address risks and inform future reforms of SNG bond markets, reinforcing market discipline and bolstering fiscal resilience.

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Managing rising subnational fiscal risks

Authors: Luiz de Mello and Teresa Ter-Minassian

Subnational governments face a range of fiscal risks, defined as events whose realisation leads to significant deviations of revenue and/or expenditure from budgeted amounts. Fiscal risks reflect unforeseen macroeconomic developments, as well as structural shifts in the economy, including digitalisation and climate change. Sound management of these risks requires a comprehensive framework involving their identification, analysis, mitigation, sharing or transfer, and prudent accommodation. Within this framework, subnational governments need to strengthen their capacity to manage their own risks, but national governments also have a role to play. This includes mitigating risks created by national policies, minimising moral hazard in supporting subnational governments affected by exogenous shocks, and using their legislative powers to avert excessive subnational risk-taking. Effective intergovernmental cooperation is key to the sound management of subnational fiscal risks. The paper discusses how different levels of government can work together in applying this framework to the main types of risks. It also provides some examples of good international practices in the management of risks.

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