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Myths and Facts about Fiscal Discretion: A New Measure of Discretionary Expenditure

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In this paper we suggest a new measure of discretionary government spending for OECD countries over the period 1980-2011. To identify the components of discretionary expenditure, we use the volatility and persistence properties of the expenditure series. Discretionary policy cannot be inertial and should be free from prior obligations. Commonly used measures of discretionary fiscal policy do not satisfy these two criteria. We find that discretionary expenditure accounts on average for about 30 per cent of total primary expenditure, suggesting that most government spending is driven by inertial and automatic components. These features help explain why government expenditure is generally not counter-cyclical even is advanced economies. Furthermore, the small share of discretionary expenditure over total expenditure significantly reduces the room of manoeuvre for counter-cyclical fiscal policy during recessions

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  • Fabrizio Coricelli & Riccardo Fiorito, 2013. "Myths and Facts about Fiscal Discretion: A New Measure of Discretionary Expenditure," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 13033, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
  • Handle: RePEc:mse:cesdoc:13033
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    1. Willem Adema & Pauline Fron & Maxime Ladaique, 2011. "Is the European Welfare State Really More Expensive?: Indicators on Social Spending, 1980-2012; and a Manual to the OECD Social Expenditure Database (SOCX)," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 124, OECD Publishing.
    2. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2010. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 763-801, June.
    3. António Afonso & Luca Agnello & Davide Furceri, 2010. "Fiscal policy responsiveness, persistence, and discretion," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 145(3), pages 503-530, December.
    4. Olivier Jean Blanchard, 1990. "Suggestions for a New Set of Fiscal Indicators," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 79, OECD Publishing.
    5. 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.
    6. Lane, Philip R., 2003. "The cyclical behaviour of fiscal policy: evidence from the OECD," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2661-2675, December.
    7. Martin Larch & Alessandro Turrini, 2009. "The cyclically-adjusted budget balance in EU fiscal policy making : A love at first sight turned into a mature relationship," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 374, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    8. Mr. Riccardo Fiorito, 1997. "Stylized Facts of Government Finance in the G-7," IMF Working Papers 1997/142, International Monetary Fund.
    9. Nathalie Girouard & Christophe André, 2005. "Measuring Cyclically-adjusted Budget Balances for OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 434, OECD Publishing.
    10. Levy-Yeyati, Eduardo & Sturzenegger, Federico, 2005. "Classifying exchange rate regimes: Deeds vs. words," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(6), pages 1603-1635, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hughes Hallett, Andrew, 2019. "Fiscal governance after the financial crisis: A review," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 54-63.
    2. Greg Hannsgen, 2013. "Heterodox Shocks," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_766, Levy Economics Institute.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Discretion; government spending; volatility;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies

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