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Fiscal policy and interest rates in Europe

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  • Riccardo Faini

Abstract

"The appetite for fiscal discipline has been steadily declining among most industrial countries. In the past, fiscal profligacy would have been punished by markets with higher interest rates and, in some cases, also exchange rate depreciation. However, in post-EMU Europe, exchange rate markets no longer discipline the fiscal behaviour of national governments. Perhaps more crucially, even the interest rate punishment to fiscal indiscipline is highly uncertain, with academic opinions being quite divided on this issue. This paper takes a close look at the link between fiscal policy and interest rates in the European context. The key finding is that an expansionary fiscal policy in one EMU member will have an effect both on its spreads and on the overall level of interest rates for the currency union as a whole, with the second effect, however, being quantitatively much more significant. This suggests that there are indeed substantial spillovers, through the interest rate channel, among fiscal policies of member countries. To limit countries' incentive to run expansionary fiscal policies, a set of rules, like those embedded in the Stability and Growth Pact, is then needed. Some (weak) evidence is also found that after EMU, interest rate spillovers seem to be more significant for high debt countries with unsustainable fiscal policies, reflecting perhaps market concerns about a possible sovereign bail out or the impact of financial distress. There may be a case then for imposing tighter rules on high debt countries." Copyright CEPR, CES, MSH, 2006.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by CEPR & CES & MSH in its journal Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 21 (2006)
Issue (Month): 47 (07)
Pages: 443-489

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ecpoli:v:21:y:2006:i:47:p:443-489

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