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Subnational Government Bailouts in OECD Countries: Four Case Studies


  • Jürgen Von Hagen
  • Massimo Bordignon
  • Bhajan S. Grewal
  • Per Peterson
  • Helmut Seitz
  • Matz Dahlberg


We present four case studies of bailouts of subnational governments in Australia, Germany, Italy and Sweden. The case studies show that bailouts can occur in a diverse set of institutions shaping the relations between central and subnational governments. Surpisingly, there is little evidence in favor of the `too big to fail` argument explaining bailouts. In contrast, elements of political favoritism play some role in most cases. The cases also indicate the importance of properly designing principal-agent relationships in the decentralization of public finances. Constitutional mandates for uniform provision of public services and attempts by the central government to dominate subnational governments in matters of fiscal policy seem to be conducive to bailouts.

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  • Jürgen Von Hagen & Massimo Bordignon & Bhajan S. Grewal & Per Peterson & Helmut Seitz & Matz Dahlberg, 2000. "Subnational Government Bailouts in OECD Countries: Four Case Studies," Research Department Publications 3100, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:3100

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    1. Qian, Yingyi & Roland, Gerard, 1998. "Federalism and the Soft Budget Constraint," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1143-1162, December.
    2. Barry Eichengreen and Jurgen von Hagen., 1995. "Fiscal Policy and Monetary Union: Federalism, Fiscal Restrictions and the No-Bailout Rule," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C95-056, University of California at Berkeley.
    3. M. Dewatripont & E. Maskin, 1995. "Credit and Efficiency in Centralized and Decentralized Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(4), pages 541-555.
    4. Wildasin, David E., 1998. "Fiscal aspect of evolving federations : issues for policy and research," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1884, The World Bank.
    5. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Does centralization increase the size of government?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 765-773, April.
    6. Massimo Bordignon, 2000. "Problems of Soft Budget Constraints in Intergovernmental Relationships: The Case of Italy," Research Department Publications 3099, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
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    Cited by:

    1. Florian Chatagny & Marko Köthenbürger, 2014. "Fiskalische Lücken auf Gemeindeebene im Kanton Zürich," KOF Analysen, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich, vol. 8(3), pages 109-116, October.
    2. Foremny, Dirk, 2014. "Sub-national deficits in European countries: The impact of fiscal rules and tax autonomy," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 86-110.
    3. Luc Eyraud & Anita Tuladhar & Julio Escolano & Marialuz Moreno Badia & Juliane Sarnes, 2012. "Fiscal Performance, Institutional Design and Decentralization in European Union Countries," IMF Working Papers 12/45, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Foremny, Dirk, 2011. "Vertical aspects of sub-national deficits: the impact of fiscal rules and tax autonomy in European countries," MPRA Paper 32998, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Crivelli, Ernesto & Staal, Klaas, 2006. "Size and soft budget constraints," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 172, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    6. Salvador Barrios & Diego Martínez-López, 2017. "Fiscal equalization schemes and subcentral government borrowing," Chapters,in: Central and Local Government Relations in Asia, chapter 4, pages 130-160 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Pilar Sorribas-Navarro, 2006. "(When) Are Intergovernmental Transfers Used to Bail Out Regional Governments? Evidence from Spain 1986-2001," Working Papers 2006/7, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    8. Eichler, Stefan & Hofmann, Michael, 2013. "Sovereign default risk and decentralization: Evidence for emerging markets," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 113-134.
    9. Sorribas-Navarro, Pilar, 2011. "Bailouts in a fiscal federal system: Evidence from Spain," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 154-170, March.
    10. repec:rom:rampas:v:2015:y:2015:i:25:p:6-26 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Thushyanthan Baskaran, 2012. "Tax Decentralization and Public Deficits in OECD Countries," Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(4), pages 688-707, October.
    12. Ernesto Crivelli & Klaas Staal, 2013. "Size, spillovers and soft budget constraints," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 20(2), pages 338-356, April.
    13. Naeem ur Rehman Khattak & Iftikhar Ahmad & Jangraiz Khan, 2010. "Fiscal Decentralisation in Pakistan," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 49(4), pages 419-436.
    14. Eyraud, Luc & Lusinyan, Lusine, 2013. "Vertical fiscal imbalances and fiscal performance in advanced economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(5), pages 571-587.
    15. Van Hecke, Annelore, 2013. "Vertical debt spillovers in EMU countries," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 468-492.

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