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Passive Savers and Fiscal Policy Effectiveness in Japan

  • Kenneth N. Kuttner


    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

  • Adam S. Posen


    (Institute for International Economics)

The efficacy of fiscal policy in Japan in the last decade has been a subject of considerable dispute, and the coincidence of mounting deficits and continued stagnation has led some to conclude that fiscal policy was ineffective. This paper finds ample support for the opposite conclusion: exogenous fiscal policy shocks (as derived from a structural vector-autoregression model) had pronounced real effects in Japan. Expansionary fiscal policy was expansionary, and contractionary policy contractionary, consistent with the implications of conventional macroeconomic theory. A historical decomposition shows that Japan’s burgeoning public debt stems almost entirely from the recession-caused slowdown in revenue growth, and that fiscal policy was at times procyclical rather than consistently expansionary. Direct examination of the long-run relationship between private saving, taxes, and spending confirms that any Ricardian effects of future public liabilities on saving were insufficient to offset the direct first-order effects of taxes and public expenditures. The passivity of Japanese savers therefore seems to have contributed to the efficacy of fiscal policy; otherwise, some combination of increased saving, capital outflow, and higher interest rates would have diminished its impact.

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Paper provided by Peterson Institute for International Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number WP02-2.

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Date of creation: May 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp02-2
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  1. Hiroko Ishii & Erika Wada, 1998. "Local Government Spending: Solving the Mystery of Japanese Fiscal Packages," Working Paper Series WP98-5, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  2. Buiter, Willem H & Kletzer, Kenneth M, 1992. "Who's Afraid of the Public Debt?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 290-94, May.
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  4. Adam S. Posen, 1998. "Restoring Japan's Economic Growth," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 35.
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  7. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Willi Leibfritz & Willi Leibfritz, 1999. "An International Comparison of Generational Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Generational Accounting around the World, pages 73-102 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Francesco Giavazzi & Marco Pagano, 1990. "Can Severe Fiscal Contractions Be Expansionary? Tales of Two Small European Countries," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1990, Volume 5, pages 75-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. C. Fred Bergsten & Marcus Noland & Takatoshi Ito, 2001. "No More Bashing: Building a New Japan-United States Economic Relationship," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 105.
  14. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1995. "What do Budget Deficits Do?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1740, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  15. Ishi, Hiromitsu, 2000. "Making Fiscal Policy in Japan: Economic Effects and Institutional Settings," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199240715.
  16. Claude Giorno & Pete Richardson & Deborah Roseveare & Paul van den Noord, 1995. "Estimating Potential Output, Output Gaps and Structural Budget Balances," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 152, OECD Publishing.
  17. Horioka, C.Y., 1989. "The Determinants Of Japan'S Saving Rate: The Impact Of The Age Structure Of The Population And Other Factors," ISER Discussion Paper 0189, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
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