Abstract: We examine the effects that revenue windfalls from international commodity price booms have on external debt in a panel of 93 countries during the period 1970-2007. Our main finding is that increases in the international prices of exported commodity goods lead to a significant reduction in the level of external debt in democracies, but to no significant reduction in the level of external debt in autocracies. To explain this result, we show that in autocracies commodity windfalls lead to a statistically significant and quantitatively large increase in government expenditures. In democracies on the other hand government expenditures did not increase significantly. We also document that following commodity windfalls the risk of default on external debt decreased in democracies, but increased significantly in autocracies.
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