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When does delegation improve credibility? Central Bank independence and the separation of powers

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  • Philip Keefer
  • David Stasavage

Abstract

Delegation and policy rules are frequently suggested strategies for governments to establish credible commitments. Existing literature on rules and delegation in macroeconomic policy has generally avoided the question of why governments that delegate or establish rules do not subsequently reverse this decision. Either the decision is assumed to be irreversible, or reversal is assumed to be “politically costly” without further explanation. We develop several hypotheses which suggest that the difficulty in reversing a decision to delegate (or to establish a rule) depends on the structure of a country’s political institutions. Credible commitment through delegation can only be obtained in countries where political institutions provide for checks and balances on executive authority. Checks and balances ensure that the decision to override a legally independent central bank is not the prerogative of a single actor (or veto player). In countries with these characteristics, the extent of credibility gains will be greatest when political instability is moderate and when polarization is high. We find support for these hypotheses in tests using cross-country data - from both developed and developing countries - on central bank independence and political institutions.

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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 1998-18.

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Date of creation: 1998
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Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:1998-18

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  1. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Optimal Contracts for Central Bankers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 150-67, March.
  2. Robert J. Barro & David B. Gordon, 1981. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural-Rate Model," NBER Working Papers 0807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Atish R. Ghosh & Anne-Marie Gulde & Jonathan D. Ostry & Holger C. Wolf, 1997. "Does the Nominal Exchange Rate Regime Matter?," NBER Working Papers 5874, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Guido Tabellini & Alberto Alesina, 1988. "Voting on the Budget Deficit," UCLA Economics Working Papers 539, UCLA Department of Economics.
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  12. Cukierman, Alex & Webb, Steven B & Neyapti, Bilin, 1992. "Measuring the Independence of Central Banks and Its Effect on Policy Outcomes," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 6(3), pages 353-98, September.
  13. Hallerberg, Mark & von Hagen, Jürgen, 1997. "Electoral Institutions, Cabinet Negotiations, and Budget Deficits within the European Union," CEPR Discussion Papers 1555, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Poterba, James M, 1994. "State Responses to Fiscal Crises: The Effects of Budgetary Institutions and Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 799-821, August.
  15. Alesina, Alberto & Gatti, Roberta, 1995. "Independent Central Banks: Low Inflation at No Cost?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 196-200, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Dillinger, William & Webb, Steven B., 1999. "Decentralization and fiscal management in Colombia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2122, The World Bank.

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