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Does the Maastricht Public Debt Criterion Call for Fiscal Expansion or Contraction?


  • Ahtiala, Pekka

    () (University of Tampere)


The Maastricht convergence criteria of the Economic and Monetary Union of Europe stipulate that the public debt of a member country maybe at most 60 percent, and the fiscal deficit at most 3 percent of the GNP, which has led member governments to contract their expenditures. A simple two-country flow equilibrium model demonstrates that if the central banks target the interestrate, the contraction is likely to increase the public debt ratio in many member countries. A contraction by one country unambiguously increases the debt ratio of the other. If the foreign central bank targets the money supply, the contraction is less likely to increase the ratio. The ratio can also be lowered with monetary policy, and the appropriate policy is expansion in both regimes. Simulation with an econometric model shows that, with interest rate targeting, fiscal contraction increases the debt ratios of 3 out of 14 EU countries if the country contracts alone. If all the member countries contract simultaneously with money supply targeting by Germany, the ratios of 7 countries increase. These effects persist for four to eleven quarters, whereafter the ratios begin to decline in all the countries except Belgium.

Suggested Citation

  • Ahtiala, Pekka, 2000. "Does the Maastricht Public Debt Criterion Call for Fiscal Expansion or Contraction?," Journal of Economic Integration, Center for Economic Integration, Sejong University, vol. 15, pages 397-417.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:integr:0138

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    Cited by:

    1. Pekka Ahtiala, 2006. "Lessons from Finland's Depression of the 1990s: What Went Wrong in Financial Reform?," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(1), pages 25-54.

    More about this item


    Public Debt Ratio; Fiscal Correction; Maastricht Convergence Criteria;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt


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