Mr. Yehenew Endegnanew, Charles Amo-Yartey, and Ms. Therese Turner-Jones
This chapter examines the empirical link between fiscal policy and the current account focusing on microstates, defined as countries with a population of less than 2 million between 1970 and 2009. The extent to which fiscal adjustment can lead to predictable development in the current account remains controversial, with two competing views. The traditional view argues that changes in fiscal policy are associated with changes in the current account through a number of channels that are discussed in the literature review. The traditional view is challenged by the Ricardian equivalence principle, which states that an increase in budget deficit (through reduced taxes) will be offset by increases in private saving, insofar as the private sector fully discounts the future tax liabilities associated with financing the fiscal deficit, hence not affecting the current balance.
Governments facing high debt levels and seeking to undertake fiscal consolidation are often confronted with a number of interrelated questions. What promotes a successful fiscal consolidation? How large should the adjustment be and how fast? Should one adjust now or later, and what are the consequences of postponing adjustment? Should one cut expenditures, raise revenues or do both? Which components of expenditures or revenues should one adjust, and does the composition of adjustment really matter? Would the adjustment be self-defeating? Is there a political price for fiscal adjustment?
This chapter reviews different concepts of debt sustainability and gives illustrative results on debt limits for economies based on macroeconomic characteristics prevailing in the Caribbean region. In particular, we deal with three important policy-related issues: First, we delineate key aspects of the different approaches to measure fiscal sustainability and public debt limits; second, we measure the sustainability of fiscal policy and the extent of over- or under-borrowing by the public sector over the last two decades; and third, we derive debt benchmarks through illustrative scenarios, using reasonable assumptions about growth and interest rate shocks from the region’s economies.
Caribbean economies face high and rising debt-to-GDP ratios that jeopardize prospects for medium-term debt sustainability and growth. In 2011, the region’s overall public sector debt was estimated at about 70 percent of regional GDP (Figure 1.1). Interest payments on the existing debt stock in the most highly indebted countries with rising debt ratios are already in the range of 16 percent to 42 percent of total revenues. In addition, high amortization exposes some countries to considerable roll-over risk that could trigger a fiscal crisis.