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The Political Economy of Unsustainable Fiscal Deficits

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  • Roberto Pasten
  • James P. Cover

Abstract

This paper uses an intertemporal model of public finances to show that political instability can cause taxes to be tilted to the future, resulting in a fiscal deficit that is suboptimal and only weakly sustainable (in the sense of Quintos). This occurs because political instability gives the government an incentive to implement a myopic fiscal policy in order to increase its chances of remaining in office. The government achieves this by delaying taxes (or advancing spending) in order to buy political support, which in turn causes an upward trend in the deficit process and a financial crisis. Using annual data for Chile for the 1833-1999 period, we present statistical test results that support the model.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. in its journal Cuadernos de Economía-Latin American Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 47 (2010)
Issue (Month): 136 ()
Pages: 169-189

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Handle: RePEc:ioe:cuadec:v:47:y:2010:i:136:p:169-189

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Related research

Keywords: Fiscal policy; political instability; weak and strong sustainability; cointegration with change in regime;

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References

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  1. James D. Hamilton & Marjorie A. Flavin, 1985. "On the Limitations of Government Borrowing: A Framework for Empirical Testing," NBER Working Papers 1632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Huang, Chao-Hsi & Lin, Kenneth S., 1993. "Deficits, government expenditures, and tax smoothing in the United States: 1929-1988," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 317-339, June.
  3. Roberto Chang, 2005. "Financial Crises and Political Crises," NBER Working Papers 11779, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bohn, Henning, 2007. "Are stationarity and cointegration restrictions really necessary for the intertemporal budget constraint?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 1837-1847, October.
  5. Gregory, Allan W. & Hansen, Bruce E., 1996. "Residual-based tests for cointegration in models with regime shifts," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 99-126, January.
  6. Ghosh, Atish R, 1995. "Intertemporal Tax-Smoothing and the Government Budget Surplus: Canada and the United States," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 1033-45, November.
  7. Panzer, John & Paredes, Ricardo D, 1991. " The Role of Economic Issues in Elections: The Case of the 1988 Chilean Presidential Referendum," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 71(1-2), pages 51-59, August.
  8. Rodrigo Cerda & Rodrigo Vergara, 2007. "Business cycle and political election outcomes: Evidence from the Chilean democracy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 125-136, July.
  9. R. Pasten & J. P. Cover, 2011. "Does the Chilean government smooth taxes? A tax-smoothing model with revenue collection from a natural resource," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(5), pages 421-425.
  10. Eric Zivot & Donald W.K. Andrews, 1990. "Further Evidence on the Great Crash, the Oil Price Shock, and the Unit Root Hypothesis," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 944, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  11. Cerda, Rodrigo & Vergara, Rodrigo, 2008. "Government Subsidies and Presidential Election Outcomes: Evidence for a Developing Country," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(11), pages 2470-2488, November.
  12. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  13. Johansen, Soren, 1988. "Statistical analysis of cointegration vectors," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 231-254.
  14. Olekalns, Nilss, 1997. "Australian Evidence on Tax Smoothing and the Optimal Budget Surplus," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 73(222), pages 248-57, September.
  15. Quintos, Carmela E, 1995. "Sustainability of the Deficit Process with Structural Shifts," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(4), pages 409-17, October.
  16. José Jofre & Rolf Lüders & Gert Wagner, . "Economía Chilena 1810-1995. Cuentas Fiscales," Documentos de Trabajo 188, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
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Cited by:
  1. Anwar, Mumtaz & Ahmad, Munazza, 2012. "Political determinants of budget deficit in Pakistan: An empirical investigation," HWWI Research Papers 135, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).

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