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There would be few dissenters from the general proposition that we should try to deal justly with debt. We have all watched in horror the collapse that has taken place in Argentina and the enormous cost paid by so many people in that country—as well as by the creditors of Argentina—from the massive financial and economic dislocation and disruption. I do not believe that what has occurred was inevitable.
Unfortunately, some who address this issue of dealing with unmanageable debt situations have offered advice that, while emotionally appealing, is not operationally helpful. I will describe and justify the rationale and design of the proposal put forward by the International Monetary Fund for a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism (SDRM). Its major goal is to help reduce the unacceptably large costs associated with disorderly defaults by sovereign governments whose debt burdens have become unsustainable. The SDRM aims to get the countries' debts to sustainable positions and deal with the broader needs of the countries through the full array of aid and other mechanisms that are available— and, indeed, to enlarge and enhance these initiatives. I will also explain my misgivings about some of the other proposals, including the ones coming from the NGO community.