IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The "Austerity Myth": Gain without Pain?

  • Roberto Perotti
Registered author(s):

    As governments around the world contemplate slashing budget deficits, the “expansionary fiscal consolidation hypothesis” is back in vogue. I argue that, as a statement about the short run, it should be taken with caution. Alesina and Perotti (1995) and Alesina and Ardagna (2010) (AAP) have argued that, contrary to conventional wisdom, fiscal consolidations may be expansionary if implemented mainly by cutting government spending. IMF (2010) criticizes the data used by AAP and shows that all consolidations are contractionary in the short run. I argue that this criticism is correct in principle, and that there are other important limitations in the AAP methodology. However, the implementation of the IMF methodology has several problems of its own, that make an interpretation of the IMF results difficult. I then argue that because of the multi?year nature of the large fiscal consolidations, which are precisely those that can tell us more on the mechanisms at work, using yearly panels of annual data is limiting. I present four detailed case studies of fiscal consolidations, two (Denmark and Ireland) carried out under fixed exchange rates (arguably the most relevant case for many European countries today) and two (Finland and Sweden) after floating the currency. All four consolidations were associated with an expansion; but only in Denmark the driver of growth was internal demand. However, as in most exchange rate based stabilizations, after three years a long slump set in as the economy lost competitiveness. In the other episodes for a long time the main driver of growth was exports. In the second exchange rate based stabilization, Ireland, this occurred because the sterling coincidentally appreciated. In Finland and Sweden the currency experienced an extremely large depreciation after floating. In all consolidations interest rate fell fast, and wage moderation played a key role in ensuring competitiveness and allowing the decrease in interest rates. Wage moderation was supported by incomes policies that saw the direct in tervention of the government in the wage negotiation process. These results cast doubt on at least some versions of the “expansionary fiscal consolidations” hypothesis, and on its applicability to many countries in the present circumstances. A depreciation is not available to EMU members today (except vis à vis countries outside the Eurozone). The current account channel is not available to the world as a whole. A further decline in interest rates is unlikely in the current situation. And incomes policies are not popular nowadays; moreover, international experience, and the Danish case, suggest that they are ineffective after a few years.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: ftp://ftp.igier.unibocconi.it/wp/2011/430.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 430.

    as
    in new window

    Length:
    Date of creation: 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:430
    Contact details of provider: Postal: via Rontgen, 1 - 20136 Milano (Italy)
    Phone: 0039-02-58363301
    Fax: 0039-02-58363302
    Web page: http://www.igier.unibocconi.it/

    Order Information: Web: http://www.igier.unibocconi.it/en/papers/index.htm Email:


    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Stéphanie Guichard & Mike Kennedy & Eckhard Wurzel & Christophe André, 2007. "What Promotes Fiscal Consolidation: OECD Country Experiences," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 553, OECD Publishing.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:430. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.