The Corner

Debt Collectors Weigh In

From an email: “I trade emerging markets debt for a living and have watched with intensifying pain as busted Iraqi sovereign loans traded up from around 8 cents on the dollar pre-liberation to around 30 cents on the dollar today. As an American citizen, I am prohibited from trading the debt the lingering presence of Iraq on Treasury’s OFAC list. The question of whether this debt will be or should be repudiated is a hot one in the EM trading community. The term of art is ‘odious debt.’ I tend to lean toward George Will’s view. In any market, rules should be as clear as possible ex ante. We have a way of designate certain debt ‘odious.’ It’s called sanctions and anyone can consult the OFAC list to see whether a regime is on it. “

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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