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Is the Italian Public Debt Really Unsustainable? An Historical Comparison (1861-2010)

Author

Listed:
  • Silvana Bartoletto
  • Bruno Chiarini
  • Elisabetta Marzano

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to analyze the sustainability of public debt in Italy during the last 150 years (1861-2010) by employing a database containing several statistical novelties: new time series estimates of public debt and GDP (respectively Bank of Italy and Baffigi, 2011) and an original reconstruction of the revenues of the State. The key economic indicators analyzed include public debt, primary and total deficits, nominal and real GDP rates of growth. Long-term analysis of new homogeneous statistical series has led to a different perspective, in particular when compared with the existing Italian literature on the debt-to-GDP ratio. Two main issues are addressed. First, we examine the size and dynamics of public finance aggregates in a long-term perspective. In particular, we carry out a detailed historical analysis, aiming to identify the determinants of public debt and its ratio to GDP. Second, following the approach proposed both by Bohn (1998, 2005) and Doi et al. (2011), we test for the sustainability of public debt in Italy, comparing four different historical periods.

Suggested Citation

  • Silvana Bartoletto & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2013. "Is the Italian Public Debt Really Unsustainable? An Historical Comparison (1861-2010)," CESifo Working Paper Series 4185, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4185
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fabrizio Balassone & Maura Francese & Angelo Pace, 2011. "Public Debt and Economic Growth in Italy," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 11, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    3. Martin Feldstein, 1997. "The Political Economy of the European Economic and Monetary Union: Political Sources of an Economic Liability," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 23-42, Fall.
    4. Bordo, Michael D. & Rockoff, Hugh, 1996. "The Gold Standard as a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(02), pages 389-428, June.
    5. Silvana Bartoletto & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2012. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in Italy: A Long-Term Perspective," CESifo Working Paper Series 3812, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Toniolo, Gianni & Conte, Leandro & Vecchi, Giovanni, 2003. "Monetary Union, institutions and financial market integration: Italy, 1862-1905," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 443-461, October.
    7. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior of U. S. Public Debt and Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963.
    8. Roubini, Nouriel & Sachs, Jeffrey D., 1989. "Political and economic determinants of budget deficits in the industrial democracies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 903-933, May.
    9. Carmen M. Reinhart, 2011. "A Series of Unfortunate Events: Common Sequencing Patterns in Financial Crises," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 4, pages 11-36, October-D.
    10. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
    11. Nigel A Chalk & Richard Hemming, 2000. "Assessing Fiscal Sustainability in Theory and Practice," IMF Working Papers 00/81, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Zamagni Vera, 1998. "Il debito pubblico italiano 1861-1946: ricostruzione della serie storica," Rivista di storia economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 3, pages 207-242.
    13. Tattara, Giuseppe, 2003. "Paper money but a gold debt: Italy on the gold standard," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 122-142, April.
    14. Fenoaltea, Stefano, 2005. "The growth of the Italian economy, 1861 1913: Preliminary second-generation estimates," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(03), pages 273-312, December.
    15. Raffaella Basile & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2011. "Can we Rely upon Fiscal Policy Estimates in Countries with Unreported Production of 15 Per Cent (or more) of GDP?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3521, CESifo Group Munich.
    16. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E, 1991. "Testing Intertemporal Budget Constraints: Theory and Applications to U.S. Federal Budget and Current Account Deficits," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(2), pages 206-223, May.
    17. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E., 1988. "Common trends, the government's budget constraint, and revenue smoothing," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 425-444.
    18. Doi, Takero & Hoshi, Takeo & Okimoto, Tatsuyoshi, 2011. "Japanese government debt and sustainability of fiscal policy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 414-433.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kliem, Martin & Kriwoluzky, Alexander & Sarferaz, Samad, 2016. "Monetary–fiscal policy interaction and fiscal inflation: A tale of three countries," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 158-184.
    2. Stefano Lucarelli & Roberto Romano, 2016. "The Italian Crisis within the European Crisis. The Relevance of the Technological Foreign Constraint," World Economic Review, World Economics Association, vol. 2016(6), pages 1-12, February.
    3. Carlos Cuerpo & José Miguel Ramos, 2015. "Spanish Public Debt Sustainability Analysis," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 215(4), pages 95-118, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public debt sustainability; Italian debt history; intertemporal budget constraint; fiscal rule;

    JEL classification:

    • C22 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N24 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: 1913-

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