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Sovereign default risk premia, fiscal limits, and fiscal policy

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  • Bi, Huixin

Abstract

We develop a closed economy model to study the interactions among sovereign risk premia, fiscal limits, and fiscal policy. The fiscal limits, which measure the government's ability to service its debt, arise endogenously from dynamic Laffer curves. The state-dependent distributions of fiscal limits depend on the growth of lump-sum transfers, the size of the government, the degree of countercyclical policy responses, and economic diversity. The country-specific fiscal limits imply that the market perceives the riskiness of sovereign debt issued by different countries to be different, which is consistent with the observation that developed countries are downgraded at different levels of debt. A nonlinear relationship between sovereign risk premia and the level of government debt emerges in equilibrium, which is in line with the empirical evidence that once risk premia begin to rise, they do so rapidly. Nonlinear simulations show that fiscal austerity measures that aim to balance the government budget in the short run fail to contain the default risk premium, even with sizeable cuts in government purchases; but a long-term plan for fiscal reform, if it credibly changes the market's expectation about future fiscal policies, can alleviate the rising risk premium.

Suggested Citation

  • Bi, Huixin, 2012. "Sovereign default risk premia, fiscal limits, and fiscal policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 389-410.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:56:y:2012:i:3:p:389-410 DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2011.11.001
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    Keywords

    Sovereign default risk premia; Fiscal limit; Laffer curve;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General

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