Header and navigation menu

Page content

Promises and Perils of Sovereign Debt Transparency

Sovereign debt is astoundingly opaque. While persistent doubts about transparency undermine the legitimacy of sovereign debt, the dangers posed by opaqueness are mounting. Yet, even at a time of pending crisis, information is woefully inadequate. Calls for transparency seek more data and better disclosure around debt obligations and decision making. In light of what is at stake, the opaqueness of sovereign debt has spurred a range of recent standards-based initiatives to make sovereign debt more transparent. This Article sets out to interrogate the presumptions underlying sovereign debt transparency. While transparency’s promise may be readily apparent in certain contexts, this Article argues that policymakers and practitioners ignore its limitations and shortcomings at their peril. This Article advances and explores three propositions to show how the narrative of sovereign debt transparency is incomplete: (1) that transparency is immensely challenging to implement in the context of sovereign debt, (2) that sovereign prerogatives hinder the implementation of mandatory disclosure, and (3) that the causal link between transparency and debt outcomes is unclear and conditional. The success of reform efforts hinges on addressing these impediments to meaningful transparency.