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The political economy of the German Lander deficits: weak governments meet strong finance ministers

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  • Beate Jochimsen
  • Robert Nuscheler

Abstract

We analyse the deficits of the German Lander (regional states) for the period 1960 to 2005 and test a number of hypotheses derived from the literature on the political economy of public deficits. We find evidence for the weak government hypothesis, that is, coalition governments issue significantly more debt than single party governments - a result that is typically explained by the common pool problem. As our data suggest, this result crucially hinges on the position or strength of the finance minister within coalition governments. We find that coalition governments with a strong finance minister are - in terms of borrowing - not significantly different from single party governments. In addition, we find (weak) evidence for an opportunistic political business cycle. As borrowing is significantly lower in pre-election years it appears that German voters favour fiscal discipline. There is no evidence for partisan behaviour, so party ideology seems to play a negligible role.

Suggested Citation

  • Beate Jochimsen & Robert Nuscheler, 2011. "The political economy of the German Lander deficits: weak governments meet strong finance ministers," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(19), pages 2399-2415.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:43:y:2011:i:19:p:2399-2415
    DOI: 10.1080/00036840903194246
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