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A Challenge for the G20: Globally Stipulated Debt Brakes and Transnational Independent Fiscal Supervisory Councils

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  • Dolls, Mathias

    () (IZA)

  • Peichl, Andreas

    () (IZA)

  • Zimmermann, Klaus F.

    () (IZA and University of Bonn)

Abstract

Debt-to-GDP ratios have grown to unprecedented levels in many industrialized economies. This requires disciplined consolidation efforts which are, however, supposed to come now at the wrong time with the economic recovery being fragile. The countries forming the G20 need to make sure the long-term sustainability of public finances. Not least, this is indispensable in order to avoid a further spreading of the sovereign debt crisis. Against this background, we call for a global debt brake following the Swiss or German example which should be agreed upon in Cannes in early November 2011. The agreement on the debt brake should be binding – in contrast to previous expressions made at the G20-level to reduce government debt, as, for example, the Seoul Action Plan is lacking any binding character. Therefore, the debt brakes should be fixed in national constitutions and monitored by independent transnational fiscal councils. The fiscal councils could be located at the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and should conduct a regular evaluation of national budget plans in order to ensure that they meet the requirements stipulated by the debt brake. Through this global monitoring process, an early warning system could be developed with the aim to avoid sovereign debt crises and the resulting contagion risks among highly indebted countries in the future. In an economic and political environment which is characterized by large uncertainties concerning economic prospects and the fear of a potential spreading of the sovereign debt crisis, a global debt brake in combination with an independent transnational supervisory council would send a credible signal that a reduction of sovereign debt to sustainable levels is not further delayed into the future. Moreover, a well-designed debt brake ensures that the general government budget is balanced over the business cycle. Consequently, it is a more efficient instrument than the former Stability and Growth Pact for the Eurozone which in fact stipulated a ceiling for the budget deficit, but whose requirements regarding budget surpluses in good times were insufficient. This asymmetry is eliminated by those debt brakes which are in force in Switzerland and Germany. The new fiscal policy framework thus leaves enough room for discretionary fiscal policy and the workings of automatic stabilizers in an economic downturn.

Suggested Citation

  • Dolls, Mathias & Peichl, Andreas & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2011. "A Challenge for the G20: Globally Stipulated Debt Brakes and Transnational Independent Fiscal Supervisory Councils," IZA Policy Papers 33, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izapps:pp33
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dolls, Mathias & Fuest, Clemens & Peichl, Andreas, 2012. "Automatic stabilizers and economic crisis: US vs. Europe," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 279-294.
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 573-578, May.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2011. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1676-1706, August.
    4. Antonio Fatás & Ilian Mihov, 2003. "The Case for Restricting Fiscal Policy Discretion," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1419-1447.
    5. Rotte, Ralph & Zimmermann, Klaus F, 1998. "Fiscal Restraint and the Political Economy of EMU," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 94(3-4), pages 385-406, March.
    6. Clemens Fuest, 2011. "Will the Reform of the Institutional Framework Restore Fiscal Stability in the Eurozone?," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(2), pages 34-39, July.
    7. Federico Sturzenegger & Mariano Tommasi (ed.), 1998. "The Political Economy of Reform," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262194007, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    debt brake; fiscal council; G20;

    JEL classification:

    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt

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