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Imperfect Financial Markets, External Debt, and the Cyclicality of Social Transfers

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  • Frömel, Maren
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    Abstract

    This paper deals with fiscal policy over the business cycle when international financial markets are imperfect. I document evidence that government expenditure tends to be more procyclical the higher is the borrowing cost for a sovereign. Decomposing government expenditure components shows that the cyclical correlations of government social transfers are the most important components driving cross-country differences in the behavior of government spending over the business cycle. I build a simple model of optimal fiscal policy in the presence of income inequality where government spending is financed by costly taxation and by external debt in form of a risk free bond. Government spending consists of a public good which provides direct utility, and of social transfers that can be targeted towards low income agents. When additional frictions are in the form of exogenous borrowing constraints, the government runs a procyclical tax and transfer policy in the neighbourhood of the constraint and a counteryclical policy when asset or debt holdings are not close to the constraint. The need to smooth both aggregate consumption and tax cost over the business cycle deliver the qualitative difference in transfer policy when the government cannot borrow enough. The procyclicality of transfers is stronger the tighter is the borrowing constraint in this model. In contrast, government spending on public goods is always procyclical. The results implied by the theoretical model are qualitatively consistent with the data and emphasize the need to decompose government expenditure to understand fiscal procyclicality. --

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association in its series Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order with number 79820.

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    Date of creation: 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:79820

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    1. Neumeyer, Pablo A. & Perri, Fabrizio, 2005. "Business cycles in emerging economies: the role of interest rates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 345-380, March.
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    3. Graciela L. Kaminsky & Carmen M. Reinhart & Carlos A. Végh, 2005. "When It Rains, It Pours: Procyclical Capital Flows and Macroeconomic Policies," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2004, Volume 19, pages 11-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    5. Juan M. Sanchez & Horacio Sapriza & Gabriel Cuadra, 2009. "Fiscal Policy and Default Risk in Emerging Markets," 2009 Meeting Papers 701, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2008. "The Forgotten History of Domestic Debt," NBER Working Papers 13946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Stephanie Schmitt-Grohe & Martin Uribe, 2002. "Closing Small Open Economy Models," NBER Working Papers 9270, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Carlos A. Vegh & Guillermo Vuletin, 2012. "How is Tax Policy Conducted over the Business Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 17753, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Tauchen, George & Hussey, Robert, 1991. "Quadrature-Based Methods for Obtaining Approximate Solutions to Nonlinear Asset Pricing Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 371-96, March.
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