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The impact of inflation on budgetary discipline

  • Aizenman, Joshua
  • Hausmann, Ricardo

This paper investigates budgetary rules for an economy characterized by inflation and volatile relative prices. We view the budgetary process as a limited contingencies contract between the treasury and the ministers. The budgetary process allows a minister, whose realized real budget falls short of a threshold, to ask for a treasury, the minister obtains the extra funds needed to meet the expenditure threshold level. The contract sets both the projected budget and the threshold real expenditure that justifies budget revisions. We identify the efficient contract and show that for significant state verification costs and for low volatility, the contract is non contingent (i.e., a nominal contract). For volatility significant enough the contract becomes state contingent -- it reduces the initial allocation [i.e., the projected budget,] and reduces the threshold associated with budgetary revisions. Both adjustments imply that in volatile economies the projected revenue understates the realized budget hence the average budget error is positive. As volatility increases, the contract converges to a full ex-post indexation. Hence, one of the costs of inflation is that nominal contracts lose their disciplining role in determining the real allocation. Instead, the economy shifts towards more costly arrangements like ex-post indexation, where discipline is accomplished by constant monitoring The last part of the paper uses the data from 12 Latin American countries to test the model's predictions. Our tests confirm that in an inflationary environment the planned budget is under-predicting the realized one -- higher inflation increases the budget error and the average budget error is positive.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Development Economics.

Volume (Year): 63 (2000)
Issue (Month): 2 (December)
Pages: 425-449

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Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:63:y:2000:i:2:p:425-449
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/devec

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  1. Sebastian Edwards & Guido Tabellini, 1990. "Explaining Fiscal Policies and Inflation in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 3493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Sheshinski, Eytan & Weiss, Yoram, 1977. "Inflation and Costs of Price Adjustment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(2), pages 287-303, June.
  3. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1992. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment and Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 4089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alesina, Alberto & Hausmann, Ricardo & Hommes, Rudolf & Stein, Ernesto, 1999. "Budget institutions and fiscal performance in Latin America," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 253-273, August.
  5. Guy Debelle & Owen Lamont, 1996. "Relative Price Variability and Inflation: Evidence from US Cities," NBER Working Papers 5627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Stanley Fischer, 1981. "Relative Shocks, Relative Price Variability, and Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(2), pages 381-442.
  7. Cantor, Richard M, 1988. "Work Effort and Contract Length," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 55(219), pages 343-53, August.
  8. Townsend, Robert M., 1988. "Information constrained insurance : The revelation principle extended," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 411-450.
  9. Townsend, Robert M., 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 265-293, October.
  10. Diamond, Douglas W, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414, July.
  11. Calvo, Guillermo A. & Kaminsky, Graciela L., 1991. "Debt relief and debt rescheduling : The optimal-contract approach," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 5-36, July.
  12. Aizenman, Joshua, 1984. "Optimal wage re-negotiation in a closed and open economy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 251-262, March.
  13. Benabou, Roland, 1988. "Search, Price Setting and Inflation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(3), pages 353-76, July.
  14. Guidotti, Pablo E. & Vegh, Carlos A., 1993. "The optimal inflation tax when money reduces transactions costs : A reconsideration," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 189-205, April.
  15. Calvo, Guillermo A & Guidotti, Pablo E, 1993. "On the Flexibility of Monetary Policy: The Case of the Optimal Inflation Tax," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 667-87, July.
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