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The authors develop a simple open-economy AK model with collateral constraints that accounts for growth-reversal episodes, during which countries face abrupt changes in their growth rate that lead to either growth miracles or growth disasters. Absent commitment to investment by the borrowing country, imperfect contract enforcement leads to an informational lag such that the debt contracted upon today depends upon the past stock of capital. The no-commitment delay originates a history effect by which the richer a country has been in the past, the more it can borrow today. For (arbitrarily) small deviations from perfect contract enforcement, the history effect offsets the growth benefits from international borrowing and dampens growth, and it leads to leapfrogging in long-run levels.
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