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The "Austerity Myth": Gain without Pain?

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  • Perotti, Roberto
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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) show 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. I 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 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 in 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 C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8658.

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    Date of creation: Nov 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8658

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    Keywords: expansionary fiscal consolidations;

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    1. Stéphanie Guichard & Mike Kennedy & Eckhard Wurzel & Christophe André, 2007. "What Promotes Fiscal Consolidation: OECD Country Experiences," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 553, OECD Publishing.
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    Cited by:
    1. Bernd Hayo & Florian Neumeier, 2013. "Public Attitudes Toward Fiscal Consolidation: Evidence from a Representative German Population Survey," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201351, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    2. 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.
    3. Riccardo Fiorentini & Guido Montani, 2013. "Beyond Austerity A European Recovery Policy Is Feasible," Working Papers 06/2013, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    4. Giancarlo Corsetti & Keith Kuester & Andre Meier & Gernot J. Muller, 2011. "Soverign risk and the effects of fiscal retrenchment in deep recessions," Working Papers 11-43, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    5. Sebastian Dullien, 2012. "Is new always better than old? On the treatment of fiscal policy in Keynesian models," Review of Keynesian Economics, Edward Elgar, vol. 1(0), pages 5-23.
    6. Steinar Holden, 2012. "Implications of insights from behavioral economics for macroeconomic models," Working Paper 2012/12, Norges Bank.
    7. Wilhelm Kohler, 2011. "Zahlungsbilanzkrisen im Eurosystem: Griechenland in der Rolle des Reservewährungslandes?," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 64(16), pages 12-19, 09.
    8. 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.
    9. 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).
    10. Niamh Hardiman & Muiris MacCarthaigh, 2013. "How Governments Retrench In Crisis: The Case of Ireland," Working Papers 201315, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    11. Branimir Jovanovic, 2012. "How Policy Actions Affect Short-term Post-crisis Recovery?," CEIS Research Paper 253, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 05 Oct 2012.
    12. 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.
    13. 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 11/763, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    14. Jesús Ferreiro & Carmen Gómez & Felipe Serrano, 2013. "Mistakes in the Fiscal Policy in Spain before the Crisis," Panoeconomicus, Savez ekonomista Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia, vol. 60(5), pages 577-592, September.
    15. Olivier J. Blanchard & Giovanni Dell'Ariccia & Paolo Mauro, 2013. "Rethinking Macro Policy II," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 13/003, International Monetary Fund.
    16. 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.
    17. 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 12/826, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.

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