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

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  • Philip Keefer and 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 polarisation in 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 University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number WPS/1998-18.

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Date of creation: 01 Aug 1998
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:wps/1998-18

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  1. Alex Cukierman, 1992. "Central Bank Strategy, Credibility, and Independence: Theory and Evidence," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262031981, December.
  2. Tabellini, Guido & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "Voting on the Budget Deficit," Scholarly Articles 4553030, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Mark Hallerberg & Jurgen von Hagen, 1997. "Electoral Institutions, Cabinet Negotiations, and Budget Deficits in the European Union," NBER Working Papers 6341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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.
  5. 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.
  6. Alesina, Alberto & Drazen, Allan, 1991. "Why Are Stabilizations Delayed?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1170-88, December.
  7. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-Party System as a Repeated Game," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 651-78, August.
  8. Barro, Robert J & Gordon, David B, 1983. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural Rate Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 589-610, August.
  9. Alex Cukierman & Sebastian Edwards & Guido Tabellini, 1989. "Seigniorage and Political Instability," NBER Working Papers 3199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Adam S. Posen, 1995. "Declarations Are Not Enough: Financial Sector Sources of Central Bank Independence," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1995, Volume 10, pages 253-274 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  14. 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.
  15. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-party System as a Repeated Game," Scholarly Articles 4552531, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Optimal Contracts for Central Bankers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 150-67, March.
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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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