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Democratic Accountability, Deficit Bias, and Independent Fiscal Agencies


  • Xavier Debrun


Despite growing interest among policymakers, there is no theory of independent fiscal institutions. The emerging literature on "fiscal councils" typically makes informal parallels with the theory of central bank independence, but a very simple formal example shows that such a shortcut is flawed. The paper then illustrates key features of a model of independent fiscal agencies, and in particular the need (1) to incorporate the intrinsically political nature of fiscal policy - which precludes credible delegation of instruments to unelected decisionmakers - and (2) to focus on characterizing "commitment technologies" likely to credibly increase fiscal discipline.

Suggested Citation

  • Xavier Debrun, 2011. "Democratic Accountability, Deficit Bias, and Independent Fiscal Agencies," IMF Working Papers 11/173, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:11/173

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kenneth Rogoff, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-1189.
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    9. Jensen, Henrik, 1997. "Credibility of Optimal Monetary Delegation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 911-920, December.
    10. Beetsma, Roel M.W.J. & Debrun, Xavier, 2007. "The new stability and growth pact: A first assessment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 453-477, February.
    11. Simon Wren-Lewis, 2011. "Comparing the delegation of monetary and fiscal policy," Economics Series Working Papers 540, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    12. Thompson, Earl A, 1981. "Who Should Control the Money Supply?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 356-361, May.
    13. McCallum, Bennett T, 1995. "Two Fallacies Concerning Central-Bank Independence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 207-211, May.
    14. International Monetary Fund, 2010. "A Historical Public Debt Database," IMF Working Papers 10/245, International Monetary Fund.
    15. Berger, Helge & de Haan, Jakob & Eijffinger, Sylvester C W, 2001. " Central Bank Independence: An Update of Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(1), pages 3-40, February.
    16. Robert P. Hagemann, 2010. "Improving Fiscal Performance Through Fiscal Councils," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 829, OECD Publishing.
    17. Xavier Debrun & Laurent Moulin & Alessandro Turrini & Joaquim Ayuso-i-Casals & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2008. "Tied to the mast? National fiscal rules in the European Union," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 297-362, April.
    18. Charles Wyplosz, 2005. "Fiscal Policy: Institutions versus Rules," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 191(1), pages 64-78, January.
    19. Xavier Debrun & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2007. "The Discipline-Enhancing Role of Fiscal Institutions; Theory and Empirical Evidence," IMF Working Papers 07/171, International Monetary Fund.
    20. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Optimal Contracts for Central Bankers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 150-167, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ces:ifodic:v:9:y:2011:i:3:p:44-49 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Xavier Debrun & Keiko Takahashi, 2011. "Independent Fiscal Councils in Continental Europe: Old Wine in New Bottles?," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 9(3), pages 44-50, October.
    3. Carlos Caceres & Serhan Cevik & Ricardo Fenochietto & Borja Gracia, 2015. "The Day After Tomorrow: Designing an Optimal Fiscal Strategy for Libya," Journal of Banking and Financial Economics, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Management, vol. 2(4), pages 32-50, July.
    4. Xavier Debrun & Tidiane Kinda, 2017. "Strengthening Post‐Crisis Fiscal Credibility: Fiscal Councils on the Rise – A New Dataset," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 38, pages 667-700, December.
    5. Ovalle, Raul & Ramírez, Francisco A., 2014. "Reglas versus Discreción en la Política Fiscal: Introducción al caso Dominicano
      [Rules vs Discretion in Fiscal Policy: An Introduction to the Case of the Dominican Republic]
      ," MPRA Paper 68332, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Stasavage, David, 2016. "What we can learn from the early history of sovereign debt," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 1-16.
    7. Frantisek Hajnovic & Juraj Zeman, 2012. "Fiscal Space in the Euro zone," Working and Discussion Papers WP 5/2012, Research Department, National Bank of Slovakia.
    8. repec:ces:ifodic:v:9:y:2011:i:3:p:16752097 is not listed on IDEAS


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