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Non-Discretionary and Automatic Fiscal Policy in the EU and the OECD

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  • Mélitz, Jacques

Abstract

Official adjustments of the budget balance to the cycle merely assume that the only category of government spending that responds automatically to the cycle is unemployment compensation. But estimates show otherwise. Payments for pensions, health, subsistence, invalidity, childcare and subsidies of all sorts to firms respond automatically and significantly to the cycle as well. In addition, it is fairly common to borrow official figures for cyclically adjusted budget balances, divide by potential output, and then use the resulting ratios to study discretionary fiscal policy. But if potential output is not deterministic but subject to supply shocks, then apart from anything else, those ratios are inefficient estimates of the cyclically-independent ratios of budget balances divided by potential output. (A fortiori, they are inefficient estimates of the cyclically adjusted ratios of budget balances to observed output.) Accordingly, the paper provides separate estimates of the impact of the cycle on the levels of budget balances and the ratios of budget balances to output. In addition, it discusses the relation between the two sorts of estimates. When the focus is on ratios of budget balances to output, the cyclical adjustments depend more on inertia in government spending on goods and services than they do on taxes (which are largely proportional to output). But they depend even still more on transfer payments. Besides calling for different series for discretionary fiscal policy if ratios serve, these results also raise questions about the general policy advice to ‘let the automatic stabilizers work’.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4988.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4988

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Keywords: automatic stabilization; cyclically adjusted budget balances; discretionary fiscal policy;

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Cited by:
  1. Antonio Fatás & Ilian Mihov, 2010. "The Euro and Fiscal Policy," NBER Chapters, in: Europe and the Euro, pages 287-324 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Lamo, Ana & Pérez, Javier J. & Schuknecht, Ludger, 2007. "The cyclicality of consumption, wages and employment of the public sector in the euro area," Working Paper Series 0757, European Central Bank.
  3. Sébastien Pommier, 2008. "The Use of Fiscal Policy in EMU: First Appraisal and Future Prospects," EKONOMIAZ, Gobierno Vasco / Eusko Jaurlaritza / Basque Government, vol. 69(03), pages 28-45.
  4. Strawczynski, Michel & Zeira, Joseph, 2009. "Cyclicality of Fiscal Policy: Permanent and Transitory Shocks," CEPR Discussion Papers 7271, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Edoardo Gaffeo & Giuliana Passamani & Roberto Tamborini, 2005. "Fiscal and monetary policy, unfortunate events, and the SGP arithmetics - Evidence from a growth-gaps model," Department of Economics Working Papers 0519, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.

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