This part introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters. The part explains the dimensions of the current international debt situation. It examines the role of debt in the process of economic development, paying particular attention to the role of external debt. The part presents the data on official lending to developing countries and describes the creditor-club mechanism employed during official debt renegotiations. The role of debt is widened by examining the place of debt in the maintenance and management of a stable international monetary system. The part analyses the US policy concerning the renegotiation of international debts and illustrates the process favored by the US government in cases where international debt repayments fall into arrears. It is concerned with the constraints that the debt/credit process has placed on creditors and particularly on the nation that supplies the key currency for the operation of the international monetary system.