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Consommation privée et endettement public en Italie et en Belgique : existe-t-il une relation stable ?

  • Giuseppe Nicoletti

[fre] Selon l'hypothèse dite de l'« équivalence ricardienne », les consommateurs tiennent compte, dans leurs décisions présentes de consommation et d'épargne, des impôts qu'ils devront acquitter dans le futur, notamment pour assurer le service de la dette publique actuelle — on parle alors d'« actualisation de l'impôt » ; dès lors, le mode de financement des dépenses publiques est sans conséquences quant à l'activité économique : l'épargne nationale, somme de l'épargne privée et de l'épargne publique — qui n'est autre que le surplus budgétaire — est alors insensible au déficit public. Le présent article cherche à évaluer la pertinence empirique de cette hypothèse à partir des données de deux pays — l'Italie et la Belgique — qui ont connu des évolutions très marquantes du déficit public et dans lesquels on observait, à la fin des années quatre-vingt, des niveaux élevés d'endettement public. Les résultats suggèrent que, lorsque la corrélation positive entre déficit budgétaire et épargne privée est présente, elle est liée à l'ajustement de court terme de la consommation à son niveau d'équilibre. En outre, il semble que la relation entre dette et déficit publics d'une part, et consommation privée de l'autre, ne soit pas nécessairement stable dans le temps : les résultats obtenus pour la Belgique indiquent que les ruptures de tendance dans les politiques de financement induisent des variations de l'effet d'actualisation de l'impôt, un effet ricardien important n'est décelable que lorsque les politiques engendrent une dynamique instable de la dette publique, autrement dit lorsqu'elles deviennent clairement insoutenables. [eng] According to the « Ricardian equivalence » hypothesis, when making their current spending and saving decisions, consumers take into account the taxes they will have to pay in the future, notably to service the existing stock of public debt : in other words, there is « tax-discounting ». In this case, the way in which public spending is financed has no influence on current economic activity : national saving, the sum of private and public savings — the latter being the budget surplus — , is not affected by the magnitude of the budget deficit. This paper proposes an empirical test of this hypothesis for two countries — Italy and Belgium — in which there have been prolonged periods of large budget deficits and where the stocks of public debt reached very high levels by the end of the 80s. Our results suggest that, when a positive correlation between the budget deficit and private saving can be found, it is associated with the process of short-run adjustment of current consumption to its equilibrium level. Moreover, the relationship between public deficit and debt, on the one hand, and private consumption on the other does not seem to be stable in time : the results obtained on Belgian data show that only large changes in the financing of public expenditures induce variations in the measured « tax-discounting » effect. Only when public financial policies generate a dynamically unstable path for public debt — i.e. when these policies clearly become unsustainable — can an important Ricardian effect be identified.

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Article provided by Programme National Persée in its journal Observations et diagnostics économiques : revue de l'OFCE.

Volume (Year): 37 (1991)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 79-121

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Handle: RePEc:prs:rvofce:ofce_0751-6614_1991_num_37_1_1251
Note: DOI:10.3406/ofce.1991.1251
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