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The Costs of Fiscal Inflexibility

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  • Campbell Leith

    (University of Glasgow)

  • Simon Wren-lewis

    (University of Exeter)

Abstract

Extending Gali and Monacelli (2004), we build an N-country open economy model, where each economy is subject to sticky wages and prices and, potentially, has access to sales and income taxes as well as government spending as fiscal instruments. We examine an economy either as a small open economy operating under flexible exchange rates or as a member of a monetary union. In a small open economy when all three fiscal instruments are freely available, we show analytically that the welfare impact of technology and mark-up shocks can be completely eliminated (in the sense that policy can replicate the efficient flex price equilibrium), whether policy acts with discretion or commitment. However, once any one of these fiscal instruments is excluded as a stabilisation tool, costs can emerge. Using simulations, we find that the useful fiscal instrument in this case (in the sense of reducing the welfare costs of the shock) is either income taxes or sales taxes. In constrast, having government spending as an instrument contributes very little. The results for an individual member of a monetary union facing an idiosyncratic technology shock (where monetary policy in the union does not respond) are very different. First, even with all fiscal instruments freely available, the technology shock will incur welfare costs. Government spending is potentially useful as a stabilisation device, because it can act as a partial substitute for monetary policy. Finally, sales taxes are more effective than income taxes at reducing the costs of a technology shock under monetary union. If all three taxes are available, they can reduce the impact of the technology shock on the union member by around a half, compared to the case where fiscal policy is not used. Finally we consider the robustness of these results to two extensions. Firstly, introducing government debt, such that policy makers take account of the debt consequences of using fiscal instruments as stabilisation devices, and, secondly, introducing implementation lags in the use of fiscal instruments. We find that the need for debt sustainability has a very limited impact on the use of fiscal instruments for stabilisation purposes, while implementation lags can reduce, but not eliminate, the gains from fiscal stabilisation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by ESRC World Economy and Finance Research Programme, Birkbeck, University of London in its series WEF Working Papers with number 0005.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
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Handle: RePEc:wef:wpaper:0005

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References

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  1. Campbell Leith & Simon Wren-lewis, 2006. "Fiscal Sustainability in a New Keynesian Model," WEF Working Papers 0006, ESRC World Economy and Finance Research Programme, Birkbeck, University of London.
  2. Richard Clarida & Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler, 1997. "The science of monetary policy: A new Keynesian perspective," Economics Working Papers 356, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Apr 1999.
  3. Martin Ellison & Neil Rankin, 2005. " Optimal Monetary Policy When Lump-Sum Taxes Are Unavailable: A Reconsideration of the Outcomes under Commitment and Discretion," CDMA Conference Paper Series 0501, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
  4. Soderlind, Paul, 1999. "Solution and estimation of RE macromodels with optimal policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 813-823, April.
  5. P. Benigno & M. Woodford, 2003. "Optimal monetary and fiscal policy: a linear-quadratic approach," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Beetsma, Roel & Jensen, Henrik, 2003. "Mark-Up Fluctuations and Fiscal Policy Stabilization in a Monetary Union," CEPR Discussion Papers 4020, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  8. Currie,David & Levine,Paul, 1993. "Rules, Reputation and Macroeconomic Policy Coordination," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521441964, November.
  9. Leith, Campbell & Simon Wren-Lewis, 2002. "Compatibility Between Monetary and Fiscal Policy Under EMU," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 124, Royal Economic Society.
  10. Campbell leith & Jim Malley, 2002. "Estimated General Equilibrium Models for the Evaluation of Monetary Policy in the US and Europe," Working Papers 2001_16, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  11. Richard Clarida & Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 2001. "Optimal Monetary Policy in Open versus Closed Economies: An Integrated Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 248-252, May.
  12. Lombardo, Giovanni & Sutherland, Alan, 2003. "Monetary and fiscal interactions in open economies," Working Paper Series 0289, European Central Bank.
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Cited by:
  1. Simon Wren-Lewis & Campbell Leith, 2007. "The Optimal Monetary Policy Response to Exchange Rate Misalignments," Economics Series Working Papers 305, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Kumhof, Michael & Laxton, Douglas & Leigh, Daniel, 2014. "To starve or not to starve the beast?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 39(PA), pages 1-23.
  3. Campbell Leith & Simon Wren-lewis, 2006. "Fiscal Sustainability in a New Keynesian Model," WEF Working Papers 0006, ESRC World Economy and Finance Research Programme, Birkbeck, University of London.
  4. Clinton, Kevin & Kumhof, Michael & Laxton, Douglas & Mursula, Susanna, 2011. "Deficit reduction: Short-term pain for long-term gain," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 118-139, January.
  5. Moyen, Stéphane & Stähler, Nikolai, 2009. "Unemployment insurance and the business cycle: prolong benefit entitlements in bad times?," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2009,30, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.

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