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Is the Italian Public Debt Really Unsustainable? An Historical Comparison (1861-2010)

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  • Silvana Bartoletto
  • Bruno Chiarini
  • Elisabetta Marzano

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to analyze the sustainability of public debt in Italy during the last 150 years (1861-2010) by employing a database containing several statistical novelties: new time series estimates of public debt and GDP (respectively Bank of Italy and Baffigi, 2011) and an original reconstruction of the revenues of the State. The key economic indicators analyzed include public debt, primary and total deficits, nominal and real GDP rates of growth. Long-term analysis of new homogeneous statistical series has led to a different perspective, in particular when compared with the existing Italian literature on the debt-to-GDP ratio. Two main issues are addressed. First, we examine the size and dynamics of public finance aggregates in a long-term perspective. In particular, we carry out a detailed historical analysis, aiming to identify the determinants of public debt and its ratio to GDP. Second, following the approach proposed both by Bohn (1998, 2005) and Doi et al. (2011), we test for the sustainability of public debt in Italy, comparing four different historical periods.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4185.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4185

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Keywords: public debt sustainability; Italian debt history; intertemporal budget constraint; fiscal rule;

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  1. Bharat Trehan & Carl E. Walsh, 1988. "Testing intertemporal budget constraints: theory and applications to U. S. federal budget and current account deficits," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 88-03, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  2. Roubini, Nouriel & Sachs, Jeffrey D., 1989. "Political and economic determinants of budget deficits in the industrial democracies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 903-933, May.
  3. Carmen M. Reinhart, 2012. "A Series of Unfortunate Events: Common Sequencing Patterns in Financial Crises," NBER Working Papers 17941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bordo, Michael D. & Rockoff, Hugh, 1996. "The Gold Standard as a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(02), pages 389-428, June.
  5. Tattara, Giuseppe, 2003. "Paper money but a gold debt: Italy on the gold standard," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 122-142, April.
  6. Raffaella Basile & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2011. "Can we Rely upon Fiscal Policy Estimates in Countries with Unreported Production of 15 Per Cent (or more) of GDP?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3521, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Martin Feldstein, 1997. "The Political Economy of the European Economic and Monetary Union: Political Sources of an Economic Liability," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 23-42, Fall.
  8. Takero Doi & Takeo Hoshi & Tatsuyoshi Okimoto, 2011. "Japanese Government Debt and Sustainability of Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 17305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Fabrizio Balassone & Maura Francese & Angelo Pace, 2011. "Public Debt and Economic Growth in Italy," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 11, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  10. Silvana Bartoletto & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2012. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in Italy: A Long-Term Perspective," CESifo Working Paper Series 3812, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. Toniolo, Gianni & Conte, Leandro & Vecchi, Giovanni, 2003. "Monetary Union, institutions and financial market integration: Italy, 1862-1905," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 443-461, October.
  12. Fenoaltea, Stefano, 2005. "The growth of the Italian economy, 1861 1913: Preliminary second-generation estimates," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(03), pages 273-312, December.
  13. Nigel Andrew Chalk & Richard Hemming, 2000. "Assessing Fiscal Sustainability in Theory and Practice," IMF Working Papers 00/81, International Monetary Fund.
  14. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E., 1988. "Common trends, the government's budget constraint, and revenue smoothing," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 425-444.
  15. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior Of U.S. Public Debt And Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963, August.
  16. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
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