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Economic Growth with Constraints on Tax Revenues and Public Debt: Implications for Fiscal Policy and Cross-Country Differences

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  • Aizenman, Joshua
  • Kletzer, Kenneth

Abstract

This paper evaluates optimal public investment and fiscal policy for countries characterized by limited tax and debt capacities. We study a non stochastic CRS endogenous growth model where public expenditure is an input in the production process, in countries where distortions and limited enforceability result in limited fiscal capacities, as captured by a maximal effective tax rate. We show how persistent differences in growth rates across countries could stem from differential public finance constraints, and differentiate between the case where the public expenditure finances the flow of recurring spending (such as law enforcement), versus the stock of tangible public infrastructure. Although the flow of public expenditure raises productivity, the government should not borrow to finance it as the resulting increase in public debt would lower welfare and the growth rate. With outstanding public debt, the optimal fiscal policy should keep the debt-to-GDP ratio constant in the economy with or without a binding constraint on tax revenues as a share of GDP – current non-durable public goods should be financed only from current revenue. With investment in the stock of public infrastructure, public sector borrowing to finance the accumulation of public capital goods may allow the economy to reach a long-run optimal growth path faster. With a binding tax capacity constraint, if the ratio of the initial public/private sector stock of capital is smaller than the sustainable balanced growth ratio, the optimal policy for the government is to purchase public capital, financed by debt, to immediately attain the sustainable ratio of public capital to private capital. The sustainable steady-state ratio is endogenous to the initial public-to-private capital ratio, the tax capacity and any exogenous debt limit (say, due to sovereign risk). With capital stock adjustment costs, these statements apply to a transition of finite duration rather than an instantaneous stock jump. With either a binding exogenous debt limit or solvency constrained borrowing, a more patient country will have a higher steady-state growth rate but a lower steady-state public-to-private capital ratio.

Suggested Citation

  • Aizenman, Joshua & Kletzer, Kenneth, 2007. "Economic Growth with Constraints on Tax Revenues and Public Debt: Implications for Fiscal Policy and Cross-Country Differences," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt9421k9hq, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucscec:qt9421k9hq
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
    2. Joshua Aizenman & Yothin Jinjarak, 2008. "The collection efficiency of the Value Added Tax: Theory and international evidence," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(3), pages 391-410.
    3. repec:rus:hseeco:123922 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-971, October.
    5. Gordon, Roger & Li, Wei, 2009. "Tax structures in developing countries: Many puzzles and a possible explanation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 855-866, August.
    6. Robert J. Barro & Xavier Sala-I-Martin, 1992. "Public Finance in Models of Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(4), pages 645-661.
    7. Brian D. Wright & Kenneth M. Kletzer, 2000. "Sovereign Debt as Intertemporal Barter," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 621-639, June.
    8. Barro, Robert J, 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 103-126, October.
    9. Joel Slemrod, 1995. "What Do Cross-Country Studies Teach about Government Involvement, Prosperity, and Economic Growth?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(2), pages 373-431.
    10. Baunsgaard, Thomas & Keen, Michael, 2010. "Tax revenue and (or?) trade liberalization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 563-577, October.
    11. Cukierman, Alex & Edwards, Sebastian & Tabellini, Guido, 1992. "Seigniorage and Political Instability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 537-555, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    public investment; external debt; tax capacity; debt ceiling; growth; stock vs. flow;

    JEL classification:

    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models

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