CBDC and Cross-Border Payments

The Economist reports on “The race to redefine cross-border finance:”

  • SWIFT recently launched SWIFT Go for retail payments.
  • FinTech firms often partly bypass SWIFT by aggregating payments first.
  • Ripple evades SWIFT, using a cryptocurrency for international transactions.
  • Credit card companies build infrastructure independent of SWIFT for retail (push) payments initiated by the sender.
  • JPMorgan Chase and a Singaporean bank and Temasek launched Partior for wholesale payments. This network records transfers on a permissioned blockchain.
  • CBDCs could enable banks to make overseas payments on a shared ledger.
  • SWIFT tries to collaborate with central banks.
  • Partior aims to expand, recruiting core settlement banks for both central-bank and commercial-bank digital payments in euro, renminbi and yen.

On VoxEU, Massimo Ferrari, Arnaud Mehl, Fabio Panetta, and Ine Van Robays discuss “The international dimension of central bank digital currencies: Open research questions.” They argue that research has identified three main implications of retail CBDC (with broad access):

  • ‘Dollarization’ in other countries.
  • Stronger cross-border transmission of shocks, increased exchange rate volatility and altered capital flow dynamics. “Research finds that introducing a CBDC available to non-residents ‘super charges’ uncovered interest rate parity … leads to a stronger rebalancing of global portfolios in response to shocks, and to higher exchange rate volatility.”
  • Impact on the international role of currencies.

The authors write that most models to date are unclear about what makes CBDC really different in this context. And they argue that another open question is how intensively central banks should and would cooperate. They write, somewhat optimistically, that “according to the (unwritten) code of central banking, the introduction of a CDBC in one jurisdiction must do no harm. In particular, it must not put the financial system of other jurisdictions at risk.” Let’s see.

Moving On

After 12 years of service Dirk Niepelt resigns as the director of the Study Center to take up a post as Full Professor of Macroeconomics at the University of Bern. The Governing Board and Foundation Council

thank him for the outstanding achievements of the centre under his leadership. He has played a major role in building up the Study Center Gerzensee as a place of learning and a venue for academic research and dialogue, in preparing it to meet future challenges, and in bolstering its international presence.

Dirk Niepelt will be succeeded by Martin Brown who is currently Full Professor of Banking at the University of St. Gallen.

With his academic record, management experience and extensive network in economics, Martin Brown is ideally suited to lead the Study Center in accordance with the wishes of its founder, to ensure the high quality of its activities, and to put it on the best possible footing to address the requirements of the future. The Governing Board and the Foundation Council congratulate Professor Brown on his appointment.

SNB press releases EN, DE.

World Bank Staff Boosted China and Saudi Arabia Rankings

The FT (and many other outlets) summarize a report by law firm WilmerHale which was commissioned by the World Bank:

… in the 2018 edition of Doing Business, China’s overall ranking had been artificially held at 78 — the same as in the previous year — as a result of late changes that elevated its position from 85. The report alleges that Georgieva led efforts to improve China’s ranking at a time when she was “engrossed” in a campaign to secure a capital increase for the World Bank.

… during the preparation of Doing Business 2018, high-ranking Chinese government officials “repeatedly expressed their concerns” to then World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and other senior bank managers

… attempts were made in the days before publication of Doing Business 2018 to raise China’s ranking from 85, such as incorporating data for Hong Kong into its scores. When these efforts failed … the report alleged, Georgieva “became directly involved”. … three indicators of business conditions — starting a business, legal rights-getting credit and paying taxes — were modified …

In a statement issued by the IMF, Georgieva disagrees “fundamentally with the findings and interpretations of Investigation of Data Irregularities as it relates to my role in the World Bank’s Doing Business report of 2018.”

The WilmerHale report also alleges irregularities in the Doing Business 2020 report as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned.

Doves and Hawks at the ECB

In the FAZ, Christian Siedenbiedel discusses a ZEW study on the positions of ECB board members and how they relate to national debt levels.

Es gibt klare Fraktionen von „Falken“ und „Tauben“ im Rat, und es gibt eine gewisse Korrelation zur Höhe der Staatsschulden im jeweiligen Heimatland des Ratsmitglieds. Als „Tauben“ wurden nach der Daten-Auswertung die Ratsmitglieder Ignazio Visco (Italien), Pablo Hernández de Cos (Spanien), François Villeroy de Galhau (Frankreich), Giannis Stournaras (Griechenland und Mario Centeno (Portugal) eingestuft. Auf der anderen Seite bestehe die klare „Falken“-Fraktion aus Jens Weidmann (Deutschland), Robert Holzmann (Österreich), Klaas Knot (Niederlande), Pierre Wunsch (Belgien) und Martins Kazaks (Lettland).

Die Klassifizierung der EZB-Direktoriumsmitglieder, die ebenfalls dem Rat angehören, zeige ein gemischteres Muster, heißt es in der Studie. So vertrat beispielsweise Isabel Schnabel (Deutschland) eine gemäßigtere Position als ihr deutscher Kollege im Gremium, Bundesbankpräsident Jens Weidmann. Das umgekehrte Muster gelte für Spanien, wo der Vizepräsident Luis de Guindos gemäßigter sei als sein eher „taubenhaft“ eingestellter Kollege, der Notenbankchef Hernandez de Cos. EZB-Präsidentin Christine Lagarde wird in der Studie als „Taube“ eingestuft, da sie sich auf die Fortführung des PEPP konzentriere und alle Arten von Debatten über einen vorzeitigen Ausstieg, die von der Falkenfraktion kämen, strikt ablehne. „Obwohl für sechs Ratsmitglieder nur unzureichende Daten zur Verfügung standen, deutet unsere Kategorisierung darauf hin, dass es im EZB-Rat eine Mehrheit von Tauben gibt“, heißt es in der Studie. …

Die Taubenfraktion im Rat kommt auf eine durchschnittliche Schuldenquote in ihren Heimatländern von 133 Prozent, fast dem Doppelten der Falkenfraktion mit 71 Prozent. Den Zusammenhang haben die Wissenschaftler dann noch statistisch abgesichert. „Unser Ergebnis zeigt eine klare Korrelation zwischen heimischer Staatsverschuldung und Positionierung“, sagt Studienautor Friedrich Heinemann.

Income Tax Burdens in Switzerland

In the NZZ, Hansueli Schöchli summarizes recent evidence.

Wer in der Schweiz im Jahr 2017 wie viel Einkommenssteuer bezahlte

Anteil Steuerpflichtige (in Prozent) Anzahl Steuerpflichtige Minimales Reineinkommen in Fr. Durchschnittliche Steuerbelastung (in %) Anteil der Einkommenssteuer Bund/Kanton/Gemeinde (in %)
0,01 515 4 548 020 43,8 4,82
0,1 5 150 1 109 760 37,3 9,89
1 51 498 331 731 34,4 24,04
5 257 489 152 799 28,1 42,55
10 514 978 111 403 24,6 53,03
25 1 287 444 73 769 20,7 74,13
50 2 574 888 49 989 18 90,24

… Hinzu kommen noch die Abgaben auf hohen Löhnen für AHV/IV/EO sowie für die Arbeitslosenversicherung. In der AHV sind Abgaben auf Löhnen über rund 86 000 Fr. nicht mehr rentenbildend und deshalb faktisch Steuern. Bei der Arbeitslosenversicherung gilt dies für Abgaben auf Löhnen über 148 200 Fr. Für hohe Löhne bedeutet all dies noch eine steuerliche Zusatzbelastung von total 11 bis 12%.

“Macroeconomics II,” Bern, Fall 2021

MA course at the University of Bern.

Time: Wed 10-12. Location: A-126 UniS. Course assistant: Stefano Corbellini.

The course introduces Master students to modern macroeconomic theory. Building on the analysis of the consumption-saving tradeoff and on concepts from general equilibrium theory, the course covers workhorse general equilibrium models of modern macroeconomics, including the representative agent framework, the overlapping generations model, and the Lucas tree model. Lectures follow chapters 1–4 (possibly 5) in this book.

SARS-COV 2: Until further notice the course is offered on-site. It is our joint responsibility to reduce the risk of infection in class. Only students who satisfy two criteria should attend class: (i) They should not feel ill and (ii) they should be fully vaccinated or should recently have recovered from an infection or should have very recently tested negative. Students who do not satisfy (i) and (ii) should follow the class via podcast.

“Die Nationalbank ist an vielen Fronten gefordert (Challenges for the Swiss National Bank),” NZZ, 2021

NZZ, August 10, 2021. PDF (title changed by NZZ). Related article in Ökonomenstimme. HTML.

Should the SNB follow the Fed and the ECB and rework its strategy? There is a case for rethinking the broad inflation target, the monetary policy concept, and the communication strategy. Equally important is a strategy review outside of the SNB: The SNB cannot and must not decide about the framework within which it operates.


Daher ist eine Strategieüberprüfung inner- und ausserhalb der SNB sinnvoll. Geldpolitisch prüfenswert sind das Inflationszielband, die Zentralität des Zinsinstruments und die Kommunikation. Die Glaubwürdigkeit der SNB verbietet ein Auseinanderklaffen von Theorie und Praxis, aber auch allzu häufiges und detailversessenes Feilen an der Strategie, und sie verlangt Konzentration auf das Wesentliche. Gleichzeitig sollte die SNB ihre Bindung an den – gegebenenfalls sich wandelnden – Willen des Gesetzgebers betonen. Bei Fragen, die nicht allein in ihre Zuständigkeit fallen, muss sie klarstellen, dass sie Partei und nicht Schiedsrichterin ist. Damit die SNB auch in Zukunft zu den grossen Schweizer Erfolgsgeschichten zählt, muss sie von Zeit zu Zeit über die Bücher gehen. Doch alleine kann sie die Verantwortung in Geld- und Währungsfragen nicht tragen.

Climate Change and Cheap Clean Energy

John Cochrane on the role of cheap clean energy which by itself will not reduce CO2 in the long run:

The standard vision in policy discussions assumes infinite substitutability. As soon as the cost of clean energy is lower than the cost of carbon-emitting energy, everyone substitutes completely to the latter and the oil and coal stay in the ground. … But as long as the elasticity of substitution is finite … then the carbon comes out of the ground. As you use less and less, the remaining uses become more and more valuable, so it’s worth it, privately and to society, to keep using it although at lower scale.

So I learn from this that a key focus for R&D is not so much on lowering the cost of alternatives, but increasing their substitutability for fossil fuels. Just because the cost of solar cells is plummeting does us little good. We need to increase their substitutability.

Climate Change and Financial Stability

John Cochrane on climate change and financial stability:

Climate change and financial stability are pressing problems. They require coherent, intelligent, scientifically valid policy responses, and promptly. But climate financial regulation will not help the climate, will further politicize central banks, and will destroy their precious independence, while forcing financial companies to devise absurdly fictitious climate-risk assessments will ruin financial regulation. The next crisis will come from some other source. And our climate-obsessed regulators will once again fail utterly to anticipate it—just as a decade’s worth of stress testers never considered the possibility of a pandemic.

How China Lends

In a CEPR discussion paper, Anna Gelpern, Sebastian Horn, Scott Morris, Brad Parks, and Christoph Trebesch document “How China Lends: A Rare Look into 100 Debt Contracts with Foreign Governments:”

China is the world’s largest official creditor, but we lack basic facts about the terms and conditions of its lending. … We collect and analyze 100 contracts between Chinese state-owned entities and government borrowers in 24 developing countries … First, the Chinese contracts contain unusual confidentiality clauses that bar borrowers from revealing the terms or even the existence of the debt. Second, Chinese lenders seek advantage over other creditors, using collateral arrangements such as lender-controlled revenue accounts and promises to keep the debt out of collective restructuring (“no Paris Club” clauses). Third, cancellation, acceleration, and stabilization clauses in Chinese contracts potentially allow the lenders to influence debtors’ domestic and foreign policies. Even if these terms were unenforceable in court, the mix of confidentiality, seniority, and policy influence could limit the sovereign debtor’s crisis management options and complicate debt renegotiation. Overall, the contracts use creative design to manage credit risks and overcome enforcement hurdles, presenting China as a muscular and commercially-savvy lender to the developing world.

Chinese commentary on the paper in the Global Times.

CBDC with Collateralized Pass-Through Funding: The Swiss Case

In his University of St. Gallen MA thesis entitled “CBDC with Collateralized Pass-Through Funding,” Bastian Wetzel assesses how strongly banks would be affected by deposit outflows into retail CBDC:

The results of the study show that 92.7 percent of all sight deposits in the aggregate Swiss banking sector are covered by excess liquidity and eligible assets, whereas sight deposits held in CHF are covered by over 100 percent. Therefore, the collateral constraint seems to be a problem only in the unlikely event where almost all sight deposits converted to CBDC. As expected, refinancing costs decline when disintermediation is low due to negative interest rates on deposits at the SNB. As disintermediation increases, funding costs rise. Thus, if disintermediation is high, the net result from interest operations could decrease by over 4 percent. To compensate for this loss, banks would have to increase their lending rate on their credits outstanding. Yet, if the central bank lends on the same terms as the customer deposits withdrawn, as also proposed by Brunnermeier and Niepelt (2019), instead of the 0.5 percent as assumed in this paper, the impact on funding costs and bank lending could potentially be mitigated. With regard to the emergence of narrow banks, it can be said that the money multiplier is already close to 1. Thus, the concern about full-reserve banking seems to be irrelevant for the time being. The results of the quantification of bank run risk show that while the aggregate banking sector is able to cover the majority of sight deposits, the coverage ratios for individual banking groups is very heterogeneous. While the big banks are covered by more than 100 percent, Cantonal banks are covered by about three quarters and Raiffeisen banks by only half. In addition, compared to big banks, Cantonal banks and especially Raiffeisen banks hold almost no eligible assets. Thus, when considering individual banking groups, a system-wider run could potentially lead to a consolidation in the banking sector. It should be noted that the study conducted is a snapshot at a time when CBDC was not yet implemented.

Liquidity Premia on Treasuries?

In an NBER working paper, Matthias Fleckenstein and Francis Longstaff argue that Treasuries do not trade at a premium:

It is widely believed that Treasuries trade at premium prices because of their safety and money-like properties. In reality, this is only true on a relative basis when compared to other bonds, but is often not true on an absolute basis. Many Treasuries have repeatedly traded at substantial discounts to their intrinsic fair values for extended periods during the past 25 years. Since 2015, Treasuries have consistently been priced at an aggregate discount of $100 to $300 billion below their fair values. Treasuries often actually become cheaper following crises. These results provide new perspectives on safe-asset theories.

German Banks Send Mixed Signals on Digital Euro

In the FAZ, Christian Siedenbiedel reports that Deutsche Bank questions whether a digital Euro as envisioned by the ECB (i.e., with tight quantity restrictions) would be successful:

Die Argumentation geht so: Die EZB will den digitalen Euro einführen, um auf den verstärkten Währungswettbewerb zu antworten. … Um sich vor solchem Machtverlust sowohl durch Digitalgeld von anderen Notenbanken („Krypto-Dollars“) als auch durch privates Digitalgeld („Global Stable Coins“) zu schützen, treibe die EZB den Digitaleuro voran. Also aus längerfristigen politischen Motiven. Dabei sei unklar, ob der digitale Euro sich international am Markt durchsetzen könne und ob die Menschen in der Eurozone dafür überhaupt Bedarf hätten. “Das Design des digitalen Euros, soweit bisher bekannt, lässt erwarten, dass die potentiellen Nutzer kaum einen Unterschied zu bestehenden Bezahloptionen erkennen werden”.

Update: From the dbresearch document prepared by Heike Mai:

Lifting the limits on how much each user can hold would change the situation entirely, allowing a massive outflow of bank deposits into the digital euro. As a result, lending decisions and money creation would shift from the decentralised, privately owned banking sector to a central, state-run authority: the ECB. In this case, Europe would face the fundamental question of which type of monetary and financial system it wants. The answer to that would have to come from democratically elected representatives.

The German Banking Industry Committee sees a central role for the digital Euro, however, according to a new paper:

In a policy paper, the German Banking Industry Committee (GBIC) for the first time sets out detailed thoughts on the design of a “digital euro”. In this paper, experts from Germany’s five national banking associations draw up an ecosystem of innovative forms of money that extends far beyond the idea of digitalised central bank money, which is referred to as Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The ECB will probably launch the project for a digital euro in mid-July 2021.

“To be successful, the digital euro must do three things: It must be as easy for consumers to handle as cash. It must be viable in the long term for business enterprises, e.g. for automated machine-to-machine payments. And the digital euro must be well embedded in our delicately balanced, carefully secured and highly regulated European financial system because this system guarantees safe and fair access to financial and banking services for everyone in Europe”, notes Dr Joachim Schmalzl, executive member of the Board of Management of the German Savings Bank Association (DSGV), which is currently the lead coordinator for the German Banking Industry Committee.

In the opinion of the experts from Germany’s five national banking associations, issuing money should remain the responsibility of credit institutions in the proven two-tier banking system [my emphasis], even if the digital euro becomes legal tender like cash. For this reason, the ecosystem of digital money which they propose is made up of three key elements:

  • retail CBDC for private use
  • wholesale CBDC for commercial and savings banks
  • tokenised commercial bank money for use in industry

Retail CBDC issued by the central bank is to be used by private individuals in the euro area in the same way as cash for everyday payments, e.g. to retailers or government agencies. It should be possible to use the digital euro like cash, anonymously and offline. For this purpose, credit institutions will provide consumers in Europe with “CBDC wallets”, i.e. electronic wallets.

Wholesale CBDC issued by the central bank is to be used for the capital markets and interbank transfers. The GBIC’s experts are calling for this special form of the digital euro partly because, by adopting this approach, the ECB would be able to include further digitalisation of central bank accounts in its project. The ultimate aim is to achieve improvements which can benefit consumers, enterprises and also the banking sector.

Tokenised commercial bank money, which will be made available by commercial and savings banks, is to complement the two forms of digital central bank money, in particular to meet corporate demand arising from Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. Tokenised commercial bank money could facilitate transactions based on “smart” – i.e. automated – contracts and thus increase process efficiency.

“Increasing process digitalisation and automation will provide completely new opportunities for Europe’s enterprises. The banking sector is ready to provide new solutions for its corporate customers by issuing innovative forms of money. The ECB must define the necessary framework that will enable Europe’s banking sector and real economy to make reasonable use of the new opportunities”, Joachim Schmalzl observed on behalf of the GBIC.

I share the skepticism of DB research. And I can understand that banks prefer to maintain the two-tiered system while pushing for broader and more efficient payment options for their business clients.

Green Returns

In the NBER working paper “Dissecting Green Returns,” Lubos Pastor, Robert Stambaugh, and Lucian Taylor argue that excess returns on green assets during recent years are unlikely to predict expected excess returns. At least that’s what theory suggests:

… green assets have lower expected returns than brown, due to investors’ tastes for green assets, yet green assets can have higher realized returns while agents’ tastes shift unexpectedly in the green direction. … green tastes can shift in two ways. First, investors’ preference for green assets can increase, directly driving up green asset prices. Second, consumers’ demands for green products can strengthen—for example, due to environmental regulations—driving up green firms’ profits and thus their stock prices.

In the data

… green stocks significantly outperformed brown stocks in recent years. … green stocks would not have outperformed brown without strengthened climate concerns. …

The bulk of the positive relation between green stock returns and climate-concern shocks evidently occurs with multi-week lags.

Expected returns on stocks are hard to identify, in contrast with expected bond returns. That’s why the authors analyze bond prices and yields:

The inverse relation between a bond’s realized return and the change in its yield to maturity is well understood, and the yield provides direct information about expected return, especially for buy-and-hold investors.

The case of German “twin” bonds illustrates this inverse relation in the context of climate concerns. Since 2020, the German government has issued green bonds, along with virtually identical non-green twins. The green bonds trade at lower yields, indicating lower expected returns compared to non-green bonds. The yield spread between the green and non-green twins, known as the “greenium,” reflects investors’ willingness to accept a lower return in exchange for holding assets more aligned with their environmental values. Since issuance, the 10-year greenium experienced roughly a three-fold widening, presumably due to growing climate concerns. As a result, the green bond outperformed its non-green twin by a significant margin over the same period. However, this outperformance does not imply green outperformance going forward. Rather the opposite is clearly true, given the now wider greenium.

Hermann Hesse’s “Siddharta”

Goodreads rating 4.04.

Seine Wunde blühte, sein Leid strahlte, sein Ich war in die Einheit geflossen. …

Weisheit ist nicht mitteilbar. Weisheit, welche ein Weiser mitzuteilen versucht, klingt immer wie Narrheit. …

Mir aber liegt einzig daran, die Welt lieben zu können, sie nicht zu verachten, sie und mich nicht zu hassen …


Swiss Bankers Association on CBDC

In a new working paper the Swiss Bankers Association identifies challenges for banks. Nevertheless it argues that

[a]ny conclusion that the status quo is the least risky option seems premature and shortsighted.

The introduction of digital currencies and design questions regarding payment methods and infrastructure represent strategic business as well as political challenges on which public authorities and business must take a productive position. An informed discussion on the design and implementation of digital currencies is essential. It is time for the general public to consider these issues and drive the opinion-forming process.

“Schuldenbremse — Licht und Schatten (Debt Brake—Merits and Risks),” FuW, 2021

Finanz und Wirtschaft, June 5, 2021. PDF.

  • The debt brake addresses some political economy frictions, but not others.
  • Focusing too narrowly on explicit government debt it provides incentives to accumulate implicit debt, sell assets, or engage in creative accounting.
  • The political pressure to raise SNB profit disbursements is a symptom of these incentives.

Banks’ Response to Reserve Tiering

In a CEPR discussion paper, Andreas Fuster, Tan Schelling, and Pascal Towbin analyze how banks respond to changes in the threshold level above which reserves held at the central bank are charged negative interest:

… exploiting an unexpected decision by the Swiss National Bank in September 2019 to change the threshold calculation without taking any other policy actions. This change led to a large increase in overall exemptions, but with variation across banks. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we find that banks that experience a larger increase in their exemption threshold tend to raise their SNB sight deposit holdings, funded through more interbank borrowing and more customer deposits. The interbank market is important for the funding choice: banks with low collateral holdings (a proxy for market access) use less interbank borrowing and instead grow their customer deposits; they also pass on negative rates on a smaller share of their deposits. Effects on bank lending behavior are moderate; if anything, banks that benefit from a larger increase in the exemption threshold tend to charge higher spreads and take less risk.

Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”

Goodreads rating 4.22.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Surely there is no greater gift to a man than that which turns all his aims into parching lips and all life into a fountain. And in this lies my honour and my reward,—That whenever I come to the fountain to drink I find the living water itself thirsty; And it drinks me while I drink it.

If these be vague words, then seek not to clear them. Vague and nebulous is the beginning of all things, but not their end, And I fain would have you remember me as a beginning.

Working from Home in the Future

In an NBER working paper, Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis argue, based on a survey of 30 000 Americans, that

… 20 percent of full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5 percent before. … better-than-expected WFH experiences, new investments in physical and human capital that enable WFH, greatly diminished stigma associated with WFH, lingering concerns about crowds and contagion risks, and a pandemic-driven surge in technological innovations that support WFH.

They predict:

First, employees will enjoy large benefits from greater remote work, especially those with higher earnings. Second, the shift to WFH will directly reduce spending in major city centers by at least 5-10 percent relative to the pre-pandemic situation. Third, … a 5 percent productivity boost in the post-pandemic economy due to re-optimized working arrangements. Only one-fifth of this productivity gain will show up in conventional productivity measures, because they do not capture the time savings from less commuting.

“Die Schattenseiten von Schuldenbremsen (The Dark Side of Debt Limits),” ifoSD, 2021

ifo Schnelldienst 4/2021, April 14, 2021. PDF.

Was Schuldengrenzen aus politökonomischer Sicht besonders attraktiv erscheinen lässt – ihre vermeintliche Einfachheit und Klarheit – birgt also auch Risiken. Es führt dazu, dass Politiker und ihre Wähler die Solidität der Staatsfinanzen über Gebühr an expliziten Bruttoschulden messen. Was aber zählt, wenn es um unerwünschte Umverteilung zulasten künftiger Generationen geht, ist staatliches Nettovermögen in einer umfassenden Gesamtschau.

“Austerity,” EJ, 2021

Economic Journal, February 2021, with Harris Dellas. PDF.

We study the optimal debt and investment decisions of a sovereign with private information. The separating equilibrium is characterised by a cap on the current account. A sovereign repays debt amount due that exceeds default costs in order to signal creditworthiness and smooth consumption. Accepting funding conditional on investment/reforms relaxes borrowing constraints, even when investment does not create collateral, but it depresses current consumption. The model contains the signalling elements emphasised by creditors in the Greek austerity programmes and is consistent with the reduction in the loans issued by Greece and their interest rate following the 2015 election.