YSI Conference on Debt Sustainability

The YSI Debt Sustainability Conference at Boston University Global Development Policy Center on 28-30 April 2023 will discuss the key conceptual and policy themes for sovereign debt sustainability, the characteristics of the existing frameworks under which debt decisions and policies occur, and possible avenues for reform. It will, furthermore, explore the crucial implications of debt sustainability issues for wider global challenges of economic development, climate mitigation, and international cooperation. The conference intends to equip young scholars and early career professionals with concepts and frameworks for dealing with debt sustainability in theory and practice and account for technical and political dimensions of the issues at hand. The topics are informed by renowned international experts from the academy and practice. We hope to inspire new economic thinking on these critical issues that concern the course of our global society.

The scope of the conference

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in sharp increases in public debt across the globe. While this holds true for all countries, rising public debt levels of Emerging Markets and Developing Countries (EMDCs) are particularly worrying, with debt vulnerabilities being high in absolute terms and relative to pre-pandemic levels. More generally, there has been acceleration of private bond issuance from EMDC corporates in global capital markets in the past years. It is this system of debt issued in global markets that is now coming under strain.

The shock of the Ukraine conflict - with its economic effects including the increase in food and energy prices, supply chain disruptions and capital flow reversals - has further increased EMDCs vulnerability. This, in turn, makes the prospects for EMDCs to roll over their debts more challenging.

Central banks in advanced economies have responded with interest rate hikes which resulted in spillovers to EMDCs economies and triggered a reversal in capital flows and higher financing costs. As financial conditions tighten worldwide, borrowing costs increase and pressure is added on international reserves. The dollar’s appreciation, in turn, only puts more pressure on EMDCs’ balance sheets and aggravates debt sustainability problems for EMDCs, many of which are already at high risk of debt distress.

As a result, we expect a significant number of sovereign debt restructurings. The international financial architecture in its current form is not ready to deal with this highly challenging situation.

Scientific committee and confirmed speakers

  • Orsola Constantini (UNCTAD), scientific committee
  • Tom Ferguson (Institute for New Economic Thinking), scientific committee
  • Martin Guzman (Columbia University), scientific committee
  • Perry Merhling (Boston University), scientific committee
  • Lee C. Buchheit (retired, 43-year legal career, much of it devoted to sovereign debt management issues)
  • Jayati Ghosh (JNU, UMass Amherst)
  • Kevin Gallagher (Boston University)
  • Andres Arauz (CEPR, former runner up Ecuadorian presidential election 2021)
  • Hans Humes (Greylock Capital Management)
  • Marc Flandreau (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Ramiro Tosi (Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social, Argentina)
  • Yide Qia (Shanghai Development Research Foundation)
  • Lara Merling (Boston University GDP Center)
  • Daniel Munevar (UNCTAD)
  • Walker Todd (former attorney and legal officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York)
  • Jill Dauchy (Potomac Group), tbc
  • Cecilia Springer Han (Boston University GDP Center), tbc
  • Yan Wang (Boston University GDP Center), tbc

Preliminary program


1.00 - 2.30pm | The Big Picture - Debt Sustainability
Martin Guzman, Jayati Ghosh, Lee Buchheit

3.00 - 4.30pm | Student presentations / parallel sessions

5.00 - 6.30pm | Evolution of Emerging Market Debt in recent history
Lara Merling, Perry Mehrling, Marc Flandreau
Moderator: Kevin Gallagher

6.30 - 7.30pm | reception
with a welcome by Kevin Gallagher


9.00 - 10.30 am | Possibilities for International Cooperation in Resolving Emerging Market Debt
Yide Qia, Cecilia Springer Han (tbc), Yan Wang (tbc), Tom Ferguson

11.00 - 12.30pm | Student sessions / parallel sessions

2.00 - 3.30pm | Debt Sustainability Frameworks and Policies
Andres Adrauz, Orsola Costantini, Daniel Munevar

4.00 - 5.30pm | Processes for Debt Restructurings
Lara Merling, Ramiro Tosi, Hannes Humes, Jill Dauchy (tbc), Walker Todd


9.30 - 11.00am | YSI project brainstorm

Topics of interest for the call for papers
We invite early career researchers and young professionals to apply with preliminary or advanced work on topics of debt sustainability and its wider implications for international economic cooperation, industrial policy, climate mitigation and economic development. We particularly interested in work that explore issues of debt sustainability directly and that bridge debt sustainability concerns with wider economic objectives domestically and globally, including economic development, climate mitigation, international cooperation.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

Debt sustainability and management

  • analytical and empirical studies of private and public debt markets
  • sovereign debt restructuring and crisis resolution mechanisms
  • institutional arrangements and debt management
  • proposals for debt sustainability
  • development banks

Implications of debt sustainability on the policy space for peripheral states, economic development strategies and mitigating climate change

  • industrial policy, economic development strategies and the green transition
  • international economic governance
  • balance of payments crises
  • management of the international financial system- industrial policy, green transition, climate mitigation policies

We welcome a wide range of theoretical and practical perspectives on the issues.

Important Notice:

  1. For participants applying from outside the United States the deadline for the application is 15 March 2023 to faciliate the process of Visa applications (which are not guaranteed).
  2. For those who do not require a Visa to enter the United States or those based in the United States the application deadline is 22 March 2023.

Organising Committee
Jay Pocklington (YSI)
Lara Merling (Boston University GDP Center)
Christina Mosalagae (University of Turin)

For more information or queries, please contact: [email protected]