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The Case for Restricting Fiscal Policy Discretion


  • Fatás, Antonio
  • Mihov, Ilian


This Paper studies how discretionary fiscal policy affects output volatility and the rate of economic growth. Using data on fifty-one countries we isolate five empirical regularities: (1) Governments that use often fiscal policy make their economies volatile; (2) The use of fiscal policy is explained to a large extent by the presence of political constraints and other political and institutional variables; (3) The volatility of output induced by discretionary fiscal policy lowers economic growth by 0.6 percentage points for every percentage point increase in volatility; (4) There is evidence that the increase in volatility is in part due to electoral cycles; nevertheless, we do find that political constraints restrain fiscal policy beyond their impact on the traditional election-year volatility; (5) Rules-based fiscal policy identified by the degree of automatic stabilizers in the economy helps to stabilize business cycles. The evidence in the Paper argues in favour of imposing institutional restrictions on governments as a way of reducing output volatility and increasing the rate of economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Fatás, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2002. "The Case for Restricting Fiscal Policy Discretion," CEPR Discussion Papers 3277, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3277

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ramey, Garey & Ramey, Valerie A, 1995. "Cross-Country Evidence on the Link between Volatility and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1138-1151, December.
    2. Torsten Persson, 2002. "Do Political Institutions Shape Economic Policy?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 883-905, May.
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    4. Fatas, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "Government size and automatic stabilizers: international and intranational evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 3-28, October.
    5. Nouriel Roubini & Jeffrey Sachs, 1989. "Government Spending and Budget Deficits in the Industrial Economies," NBER Working Papers 2919, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Fatás, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "The Effects of Fiscal Policy on Consumption and Employment: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 2760, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Political Economy of Budget Deficits," NBER Working Papers 4637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-party System as a Repeated Game," Scholarly Articles 4552531, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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    More about this item


    business cycle volatility; economic growth; fiscal policy; political constraints;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy

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