Politics, International Banking, and the Debt Crisis of 1982

Abstract: How does politics affect private international lending? This article highlights the relationship between international banks, their home governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and international regulators during the years that preceded the debt crisis of 1982. Based on new archival evidence from different case studies, we find that the decisions of commercial banks to lend were largely based on the home governments’ preferences, competition, and the assumption that home governments and international organizations would provide lender of last resort functions to support borrowing governments. While previous works suggest the 1982 debt crisis was unexpected, we show that banks primarily reacted to the deteriorating macroeconomic situation in many emerging economies once the support of their home governments and the IMF became uncertain.