In the paper we show that, most of the time, smooth reduction in the debt ratio is optimal for tax-smoothing purposes when fiscal risks are asymmetric, with large debt-augmenting shocks more likely than commensurate debt reducing shocks. Asymmetric risks are a feature of 200 years of data for the U.S. and the U.K.: rare but recurrent large surges of the debt-to-GDP ratio, followed by very gradual but persistent declines over long periods. More informal evidence from many other countries suggests that asymmetry is a general feature of fiscal shocks. The gradual smooth reduction in the public debt to GDP ratio is not a response to past developments. Instead it is optimal given recurrent fiscal risks and the empirical characteristics of fiscal shocks. The behavior of the debt-to-GDP ratio in the U.K. and the U.S. seems roughly compatible with the prescriptions of the tax-smoothing model.
This paper discusses how to enhance automatic stabilizers without increasing the size of government. We distinguish between permanent changes in the parameters of the tax and expenditure system (e.g., changes in tax progressivity) that will enhance the traditional automatic stabilizer, and temporary changes triggered by certain economic developments (e.g., tax measures targeted at credit and liquidity constrained households, triggered during a severe downturn). We argue that, with some exceptions, the latter are preferable as they can be implemented with lower disruptions in other fiscal policy goals (e.g., economic efficiency). Moreover, countries should also avoid introducing procyclicality as a result of fiscal rules, as these would offset the effect of existing automatic stabilizers.
In response to the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, government budgets and central banks have provided substantial support for aggregate demand and for the financial sector. In the process, fiscal balances have deteriorated, government liabilities and central bank balance sheets have been expanded, and risks of future losses for the public sector have increased.
Fiscal rules—legal restrictions on government borrowing, spending, or debt accumulation (like the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act in the United States)—have recently been adopted or considered in several countries, both industrial and developing. Previous literature stresses that such laws restrict countercyclical government borrowing, thus preventing intertemporal equalization of marginal deadweight losses of taxation—an idea associated with Frank Ramsey. However, such literature typically abstracts from persistent current deficits that are financed by future tax increases. Eliminating such deficits may substantially reduce tax rate variability—the very goal of countercyclical borrowing—even over a finite horizon. Thus, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings and Frank Ramsey are not necessarily enemies and they may even be good friends!
This paper examines the role of corruption in the design of monetary policies for developing countries in a framework of fiscal and monetary interaction and obtains several interesting results. First, pegged exchange rates, currency boards, or dollarization, while often prescribed as a solution to the problem of a lack of credibility for developing countries, is typically not credible in countries with serious corruption. Second, the optimal degree of conservatism for a Rogoff (1985)-type central banker is an inverse function of the corruption level. Third, either an optimally designed inflation target or an optimal-conservative central banker is preferable to an exchange rate peg, currency board, or dollarization.
Mr. Alex Mourmouras, Anna Ivanova, Mr. George C. Anayotos, and Mr. Wolfgang Mayer
This paper assesses the implementation of IMF-supported programs using measures of program interruptions, compliance with conditionality, and the share of committed funds disbursed. The econometric model allows an evaluation of the importance for program implementation of political conditions in borrowing countries, IMF effort, conditionality, as well as initial and external conditions. The paper concludes that program implementation depends primarily on borrowing countries' domestic political economy. Strong special interests, political instability, inefficient bureaucracies, lack of political cohesion, and ethno-linguistic divisions weaken program implementation. IMF effort, the extent and structure of conditionality, and initial and external conditions do not materially influence program prospects.
The paper assesses the United Kingdom's golden rule and debt rule against "ideal characteristics" of fiscal rules. It concludes that they are clearly defined; transparent in institutional arrangements and measurement; adequate to ensure sustainability; and strike a good balance between flexibility and enforceability. The rules could be strengthened by clarifying the benchmark embodied in the debt rule and the modalities of the "value for money" criterion for investment. Overall, the fiscal framework establishes the necessary preconditions for a credible fiscal policy, but the credibility of the rules could be undermined by the large gap between them and actual medium-term fiscal plans.
Viewing fiscal policies as the outcome of democratically resolved conflicts of households over public goods and taxes, the “economic model of politics” proposes a public choice approach, which does not rely on social welfare functions. With it, a country’s overall budget can be derived endogenously, electoral fluctuations explained on the basis of changes to the individuals’ income and wealth, and political behavior described in terms of the individuals’ decisions regarding votes, abstentions, and party membership. The model suggests that a country’s wealth distribution is a crucial variable affecting its economic stability and the government’s size relative to output.