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Is poor household saving the cause of New Zealand's high current account deficit?

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  • Bryce Wilkinson
  • Trinh Le

Abstract

The current account deficit in the balance of payments has frequently surfaced in public policy debate, with many commentators asserting that low household saving is a major cause of these deficits. Yet, in standard macroeconomic theory, both the current account balance and household saving are endogenous, so one can not cause the other. For any country in any given period, they may be positively or negatively correlated, or uncorrelated, depending on what causative factors were dominant at the time. Moreover, the current account balance is identical to the difference between national saving and investment. There is no general reason to expect it to move in lock step with the level of household saving. Consistently, pooled cross-country and time-series data indicate that simple correlations between the two variables are randomly scattered around zero. In the absence of proper analysis, unsubstantiated assertions about the role of household saving mislead public debate and invite the adoption of welfare-reducing policies, which may not even improve the balance of payments. The case for diverting attention from policies to lift economic growth to policies to improve the balance of payments seems to be not so much unproven as unexamined.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by East Asian Bureau of Economic Research in its series Macroeconomics Working Papers with number 22024.

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Date of creation: Jan 2008
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Handle: RePEc:eab:macroe:22024

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Keywords: Balance of payments; household savings rate; deficit; New Zealand;

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References

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  1. Alan Bollard, 2005. "Imbalances in the New Zealand Economy," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 68, December.
  2. Sebastian Edwards, 2006. "External Imbalances in an Advanced, Commodity-Exporting Country: The Case of New Zealand," NBER Working Papers 12620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Anella Munro & Rishab Sethi, 2007. "Understanding the New Zealand current account: A structural approach," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Discussion Paper Series DP2007/10, Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
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Cited by:
  1. Anthony Makin & Wei Zhang & Grant Scobie, 2008. "The Contribution of Foreign Borrowing to the New Zealand Economy," Treasury Working Paper Series 08/03, New Zealand Treasury.
  2. Grant M. Scobie & Katherine Henderson, 2009. "Saving Rates of New Zealanders: A Net Wealth Approach," Treasury Working Paper Series 09/04, New Zealand Treasury.

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