The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper proposes a fiscal policy framework we call Public Debt Targeting. The framework seeks to smooth primary spending over the business cycle while remaining consistent with public debt sustainability. Under the proposed framework, a government announces a commitment to a public debt band trajectory over the medium term, while sequentially announcing primary expenditures for the next budget cycle, which are determined recursively based on the history of shocks. Public debt targeting differs from a structural balance rule in that it internalizes the effect of the deterioration in creditworthiness from fiscal deficits and public debt accumulation, which tend to affect sovereign spreads, interest rates, exchange rates, and economic activity. The proposed framework is applied to Caribbean economies, which in general show high levels of public debt and procyclical primary expenditure.