Le dilemme du prisonnier pour les débiteurs

PRINCETON – Tout ralentissement économique entraîne un endettement accru, que ce soit pour les ménages ou les États. Aujourd’hui, tous deux cherchent comment alléger le poids de la dette – et certains préféreraient y échapper entièrement.

Des populations extrêmement frustrées et en colère – en particulier dans le sud de l’Europe – citent souvent comme modèle l’acte de défi de l’Argentine envers la communauté internationale en 2001. A l’époque, le pays avait utilisé un mélange de coercition et de négociation pour s’extraire de la montagne de dettes encourue dans les années 1990, expropriant de fait les créditeurs étrangers, perçus comme nuisibles et dangereux.

Dans les années 1990, l’Argentine s’était liée les mains en  arrimant sa monnaie au dollar pour accroître sa crédibilité comme emprunteur. La stratégie a trop bien fonctionné : les afflux massifs de crédit provoquèrent une flambée inflationniste qui réduisit nettement la compétitivité du pays. Dix ans plus tard, en 2001, un mélange de dévaluation (sortie de la camisole de force monétaire) et de défaut partiel était inévitable. Le défaut de paiement fut suivi d’une restructuration volontaire par laquelle les créanciers furent invités à accepter des pertes.

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