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Do EU Fiscal Rules Support or Hinder Counter-Cyclical Fiscal Policy?

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  • Martin Larch
  • Eloïse Orseau
  • Wouter van der Wielen

Abstract

Rather than stabilising aggregate demand, discretionary fiscal policy tends to amplify cyclical fluctuations of output. The commonly accepted reasons are political economy and uncertainty. In the EU, the pro-cyclical nature of discretionary fiscal policy has also been associated with the commonly agreed fiscal rules, which, for some observers, unduly limit the scope for stabilising output. Using panel data covering close to 40 EU and non-EU countries, we provide evidence that the volatility of output gap estimates is not a convincing explanation for pro-cyclical policies. With the exception of very large shocks, discretionary measures remain ill-timed from a stabilisation perspective even when observable and politically more meaningful indicators of the cycle are used. We also show that deviations from fiscal rules and the accumulation of government debt foster pro-cyclical fiscal policy. Lawmakers can run discretionary fiscal policy measures based on political economy considerations up to a point. Once debt grows too high, the leeway to stabilise output with discretionary fiscal policy measures fades. Complying with fiscal rules that limit the increase in government debt or keep a steady course in the face of cyclical fluctuation is conducive to counter-cyclical fiscal policy making.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Larch & Eloïse Orseau & Wouter van der Wielen, 2020. "Do EU Fiscal Rules Support or Hinder Counter-Cyclical Fiscal Policy?," CESifo Working Paper Series 8659, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8659
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    fiscal policy; fiscal rules; fiscal stabilisation; counter-cyclical policy; dynamic panel models.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus

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