Most countries do not borrow abroad in their own currency, a fact that has been referred to as “Original Sin”. This paper describes the incidence of the problem and makes an attempt at uncovering its cause. The paper finds weak support for the idea that the level of development, institutional quality, or monetary credibility or fiscal solvency is correlated with Original Sin. Only the absolute size of the economy is robustly correlated. The paper also explores the determinants of a country’s capacity to borrow at home at long duration and in local currency. It finds that monetary credibility and the presence of capital controls are positively correlated with this capacity.
In the presence of uncertainty about what a country can be good at producing, there can be great social value to discovering costs of domestic activities because such discoveries can be easily imitated. We develop a general-equilibrium framework for a small open economy to clarify the analytical and normative issues. We highlight two failures of the laissez-faire outcome: there is too little investment and entrepreneurship ex ante, and too much production diversification ex post. Optimal policy consists of counteracting these distortions: to encourage investments in the modern sector ex ante, but to rationalize production ex post. We provide some informal evidence on the building blocks of our model.