Determining Optimal Public Debt and Debt-Growth Dynamics in the Caribbean

Allan Wright, Kari Grenade


This study (i) investigates the debt-growth nexus and the non-linearity issue using panel dynamic ordinary least squares estimations and threshold dynamics in 13 Caribbean countries, (ii) calibrates an optimal debt/GDP ratio for each country using a modified Blanchard (1983) exercise, and (iii) tests the crowding out hypothesis by examining the debt-investment link. The empirical results support the view that there is a non-linear relationship between debt and growth. The findings suggest that there is a global tipping point for the debt/GDP ratio of 61 percent beyond which debt adversely impacts growth and investment. At the country level, the results show marked divergence between actual debt/GDP ratios and the calibrated optimal ratios. The empirical findings have policy relevance for Caribbean countries that are challenged by persistent high debt and low growth in the context where development is financed largely by debt accumulation. 

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