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EMU fiscal rules: Is there a gap?

  • Fabrizio Balassone


    (Bank of Italy, Research Department)

  • Daniela Monacelli


    (Bank of Italy, Research Department)

The Stability and Growth Pact sets a medium-term target for fiscal policy of a budgetary position 'close to balance or in surplus'. This addition to the deficit rule defined by the Maastricht Treaty has been interpreted as an attempt to reconciliate the objective of sound public finances with the availability of adequate margins for stabilisation. However, with the debt rule set in the Treaty unchanged, there is a risk that the Pact will not fully achieve the desired reconciliation. Using the budget to implement stabilisation policy while still ensuring a reduction of the debt-to-GDP ratio during cyclical downturns, as required by the Treaty, is likely to require large structural surpluses. Assuming positive nominal growth rates, the closer the debt ratio is to 60 per cent the larger are the surpluses needed. If countries with debt ratios higher than 60 per cent set insufficiently ambitious deficit targets, they will not be able to make full use of the margins allowed by the 3 per cent threshold. During cyclical downturns such countries may have to adopt a pro-cyclical budgetary stance. The regulation of the interaction between deficit and debt rules is complicated by the EU definitions of debt and deficit, as they refer to different groups of transactions and are based on different accounting conventions.

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Paper provided by Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area in its series Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) with number 375.

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Date of creation: Jul 2000
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Handle: RePEc:bdi:wptemi:td_375_00
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  1. Lippi, Francesco, 2000. " Median Voter Preferences, Central Bank Independence and Conservatism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 105(3-4), pages 323-38, December.
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