Sovereign Debts: How Defaults May Unfold


In the Middle East, the banks are trying to convince the Gulf States to begin issuing debt even if there is no need to borrow, simply so they have a market to trade. Governments should never listen to bankers for this always becomes a conflict of interest with respect to national debts. The sooner government wakes up to the Sovereign Debt Crisis, the soon their particular country will be saved.

When you say we are entering a “Sovereign Debt Crisis”, people automatically assume that debt will just default. Governments NEVER like to admit a mistake, so an outright default may be limited to the emerging markets the further you move away from the core economies. What may also take place is the mandatory conversion of debt extending the maturity. You may buy 90-day paper and suddenly wake up to find that the government has converted 90-day paper into 10-year bonds. Always remember, they have the tanks and guns — never forget whom you are dealing with.

In Italy, the period 1919–1922 was one of very little progress on debt and deficit reduction. Despite a levy on wealth that was introduced to tax the rich, as always, the tax faced tremendous opposition as well as implementation difficulties. Consequently, Italian fiscal deficits remained high, and inflation increased along with the money supply rather significantly. The Italian government engaged in a mandatory debt conversion, known as “conversione forzosa” during 1926, which they would again impose during 1934. They forced debt holders to extend their debt by lengthening the maturity. This seriously impacted the full faith and trust in the Italian government. During the post-1926 years and then again after 1934, the mandatory conversione forzosa effectively was seen as a partial default by the government, which made it extremely difficult and costly to borrow on a short-term basis thereafter.

You must be careful in the post-2015.75 era. Owning even short-term government paper can result in a conversione forzosa, which is the usurpation of capital by sheer force. This is one form of default that people need to realize has also been a means of default. The City of Detroit suspended all debt payments between 1937 and 1963. Britain entered a moratorium in 1931 on its debt, resuming years later.

Consequently, defaults, suspensions, moratorium, and conversione forzosa are different types of defaults whereby you lose access to your capital. There are many different flavors of a Sovereign Debt Crisis.