The global economy has experienced four waves of rapid debt accumulation over the past 50 years. The first three debt waves ended with financial crises in many emerging market and developing economies. During the current wave, which started in 2010, the increase in debt in these economies has already been larger, faster, and broader-based than in the previous three waves. Current low interest rates mitigate some of the risks associated with high debt.
However, emerging market and developing economies are also confronted by weak growth prospects, mounting vulnerabilities, and elevated global risks. A menu of debt policy options is available to reduce the likelihood that the current debt wave will end in crisis and, if crises do take place, alleviate their impact.