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Japanese Government Debt and Sustainability of Fiscal Policy

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  • Takero Doi
  • Takeo Hoshi
  • Tatsuyoshi Okimoto

Abstract

We construct quarterly series of the revenues, expenditures, and debt outstanding for Japan from 1980 to 2010, and analyze the sustainability of the fiscal policy. We pursue three approaches to examine the sustainability. First, we calculate the minimum tax rate that stabilizes the debt to GDP ratio given the future government expenditures. Using 2010 as the base year, we find that the government revenue to GDP ratio must rise permanently to 40%-47% (from the current 33%) to stabilize the debt to GDP ratio. Second, we estimate the response of the primary surplus when the debt to GDP ratio increases. We allow the relationship to fluctuate between two “regimes” using a Markov switching model. In both regimes, the primary surplus to GDP ratio fails to respond positively to debt, which suggests the process is explosive. Finally, we estimate a fiscal policy function and a monetary policy function with Markov switching. We find that the fiscal policy is “active” (the tax revenues do not rise when the debt increases) and the monetary policy is “passive” (the interest rate does not react to the inflation rate sufficiently) in both regimes. These results suggest that the current fiscal situation for the Japanese government is not sustainable.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17305.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Publication status: published as Doi, Takero & Hoshi, Takeo & Okimoto, Tatsuyoshi, 2011. "Japanese government debt and sustainability of fiscal policy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 414-433.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17305

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  1. Troy Davig & Eric M. Leeper, 2005. "Fluctuating Macro Policies and the Fiscal Theory," NBER Working Papers 11212, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Barro, Robert J, 1986. " U.S. Deficits since World War I," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 195-22.
  3. Hodrick, Robert J & Prescott, Edward C, 1997. "Postwar U.S. Business Cycles: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(1), pages 1-16, February.
  4. Smith, Aaron & Naik, Prasad A. & Tsai, Chih-Ling, 2006. "Markov-switching model selection using Kullback-Leibler divergence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 134(2), pages 553-577, October.
  5. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "State-Space Models with Regime Switching: Classical and Gibbs-Sampling Approaches with Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262112388, December.
  6. Davig, Troy & Leeper, Eric M., 2011. "Monetary-fiscal policy interactions and fiscal stimulus," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 211-227, February.
  7. 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.
  8. Doi, Takero & Hoshi, Takeo & Okimoto, Tatsuyoshi, 2011. "Japanese government debt and sustainability of fiscal policy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 414-433.
  9. Leeper, Eric M., 1991. "Equilibria under 'active' and 'passive' monetary and fiscal policies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 129-147, February.
  10. Ito, Arata & Watanabe, Tsutomu & Yabu, Tomoyoshi, 2011. "Fiscal policy switching in Japan, the US, and the UK," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 380-413.
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Cited by:
  1. Doi, Takero & Hoshi, Takeo & Okimoto, Tatsuyoshi, 2011. "Japanese government debt and sustainability of fiscal policy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 414-433.
  2. Fujii, Takao & Hiraga, Kazuki & Kozuka, Masafumi, 2013. "Effects of public investment on sectoral private investment: A factor augmented VAR approach," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 35-47.
  3. Gary Hansen & Selo Imrohoroglu, 2013. "Fiscal Reform and Government Debt in Japan: A Neoclassical Perspective," NBER Working Papers 19431, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Silvana Bartoletto & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2013. "Is the Italian Public Debt Really Unsustainable? An Historical Comparison (1861-2010)," CESifo Working Paper Series 4185, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Tomomi Miyazaki, 2014. "Fiscal Reform and Fiscal Sustainability: Evidence from Australia and Sweden," Discussion Papers 1407, Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University.
  6. Afonso, António & Toffano, Priscilla, 2013. "Fiscal regimes in the EU," Working Paper Series 1529, European Central Bank.
  7. David Greenlaw & James D. Hamilton & Peter Hooper & Frederic S. Mishkin, 2013. "Crunch Time: Fiscal Crises and the Role of Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 19297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Tomoaki Yamada & Sagiri Kitao & Selahattin Imrohoroglu, 2013. "Achieving Fiscal Balance in Japan," 2013 Meeting Papers 736, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Sakuragawa, Masaya & Hosono, Kaoru, 2011. "Fiscal sustainability in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 434-446.
  10. Kosuke Aoki & Nao Sudo, 2013. "Bank’s regulation, asset portfolio choice of banks, and macroeconomic dynamics," CARF F-Series CARF-F-323, Center for Advanced Research in Finance, Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo.

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