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The "Austerity myth": Gain Without Pain?

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  • Roberto Perotti
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    Abstract

    As governments around the world contemplate slashing budget deficits, the "expansionary fiscal consolidation hypothesis" is back in vogue. I argue that, as a statement about the short run, it should be taken with caution. Alesina and Perotti (1995) and Alesina and Ardagna (2010) (AAP) have argued that fiscal consolidations may be expansionary if implemented mainly by cutting government spending. IMF (2010) criticizes the data and methodology used by AAP, and reach opposite conclusions. Some of the methodological critiques are correct. However, the implementation of the IMF methodology has several problems of its own. I then argue that because of the multi-year nature of the large fiscal consolidations, which are precisely the most informative ones, using yearly panels of fiscal policy is limiting. I present four detailed case studies, two - Denmark and Ireland - undertaken under fixed exchange rates (the most relevant case for many Eurozone countries today) and two - Finland and Sweden - after floating the currency. All four fiscal episodes were associated with an expansion; but only in Denmark the driver of growth was internal demand. However, after three years a long slump set in as the economy lost competitiveness. In all the others for a long time the main driver of growth was exports. In Ireland this occurred because the sterling coincidentally appreciated. In Finland and Sweden the currency experienced an extremely large depreciation after floating. In all consolidations interest rate fell fast, and wage moderation played a key role in generating a gain competitiveness and a decline in interest rates. Wage moderation was facilitated by the direct intervention of the government in the wage negotiation process. In Finland and Sweden, the adoption of inflation targeting at the same time of the consolidation helped the decline in interest rates. These results cast doubt on at least some versions of the "expansionary fiscal consolidations" hypothesis, and on its applicability to many countries in the present circumstances. A depreciation is not available to EMU members today (except vis à vis countries outside the Eurozone). A net export boom is not feasible for the world as a whole. A further decline in interest rates is unlikely in the current situation. And incomes policies are not popular nowadays; moreover, international experience, and the Danish case, suggest that they are ineffective after a few years.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Bank for International Settlements in its series BIS Working Papers with number 362.

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    Length: 71 pages
    Date of creation: Nov 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:362

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    Keywords: expansionary fiscal consolidations;

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    Cited by:
    1. Olivier J. Blanchard & Giovanni Dell'Ariccia & Paolo Mauro, 2013. "Rethinking Macro Policy II," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 13/003, International Monetary Fund.
    2. Paweł Borys & Piotr Ciżkowicz & Andrzej Rzońca, 2013. "Panel data evidence on the effects of fiscal impulses in the EU New Member States," National Bank of Poland Working Papers 161, National Bank of Poland, Economic Institute.
    3. Holden, Steinar, 2012. "Implications of Insights from Behavioral Economics for Macroeconomic Models," Memorandum 25/2012, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    4. Borys, Paweł & Ciżkowicz, Piotr & Rzońca, Andrzej, 2013. "Panel data evidence on effects of fiscal impulses in the EU New Member States," MPRA Paper 48243, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Branimir Jovanovic, 2012. "How Policy Actions Affect Short-term Post-crisis Recovery?," CEIS Research Paper 253, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 05 Oct 2012.
    6. Bernd Hayo & Florian Neumeier, 2013. "Public Attitudes Toward Fiscal Consolidation: Evidence from a Representative German Population Survey," MAGKS Papers on Economics, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung) 201351, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    7. F. Heylen & A. Hoebeeck & T. Buyse, 2011. "Fiscal consolidation, institutions and institutional reform: a multivariate analysis of public debt dynamics," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration 11/763, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    8. Nicholas Apergis & Arusha Cooray, 2013. "Forecasting fiscal variables: Only a strong growth plan can sustain the Greek austerity programs-Evidence from simultaneous and structural models," CAMA Working Papers 2013-25, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    9. Niamh Hardiman & Muiris MacCarthaigh, 2013. "How Governments Retrench In Crisis: The Case of Ireland," Working Papers, Geary Institute, University College Dublin 201315, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    10. Alberto F. Alesina & Dorian Carloni & Giampaolo Lecce, 2011. "The Electoral Consequences of Large Fiscal Adjustments," NBER Working Papers 17655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Sebastian Dullien, 2012. "Is new always better than old? On the treatment of fiscal policy in Keynesian models," Review of Keynesian Economics, Edward Elgar, Edward Elgar, vol. 1(0), pages 5-23.
    12. A. Affuso & V. Bravi, 2014. "La spesa pubblica in Italia prima e dopo la crisi," Economics Department Working Papers 2014-EP01, Department of Economics, Parma University (Italy).
    13. T. Buyse & F. Heylen, 2012. "Leaving the empirical (battle)ground: Output and welfare effects of fiscal consolidation in general equilibrium," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration 12/826, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    14. Manfred Overhaus & Ulrich Maas & Aiginger. Karl & Margit Schratzenstaller-Altzinger, 2012. "Weg aus dem Schuldenhaushalt: Ist eine Tilgung der Staatsschulden möglich?," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 65(05), pages 03-14, 03.
    15. Jesús Ferreiro & Carmen Gómez & Felipe Serrano, 2013. "Mistakes in the Fiscal Policy in Spain before the Crisis," Panoeconomicus, Savez ekonomista Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia, Savez ekonomista Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia, vol. 60(5), pages 577-592, September.
    16. Riccardo Fiorentini & Guido Montani, 2013. "Beyond Austerity A European Recovery Policy Is Feasible," Working Papers 06/2013, University of Verona, Department of Economics.

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