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Japanese Government Debt and Sustainability of Fiscal Policy

  • Takero Doi
  • Takeo Hoshi
  • Tatsuyoshi Okimoto

We construct quarterly series of the revenues, expenditures, and debt outstanding for Japan from 1980 to 2010, and analyze the sustainability of the fiscal policy. We pursue three approaches to examine the sustainability. First, we calculate the minimum tax rate that stabilizes the debt to GDP ratio given the future government expenditures. Using 2010 as the base year, we find that the government revenue to GDP ratio must rise permanently to 40%-47% (from the current 33%) to stabilize the debt to GDP ratio. Second, we estimate the response of the primary surplus when the debt to GDP ratio increases. We allow the relationship to fluctuate between two "regimes" using a Markov switching model. In both regimes, the primary surplus to GDP ratio fails to respond positively to debt, which suggests the process is explosive. Finally, we estimate a fiscal policy function and a monetary policy function with Markov switching. We find that the fiscal policy is "active" (the tax revenues do not rise when the debt increases) and the monetary policy is "passive" (the interest rate does not react to the inflation rate sufficiently) in both regimes. These results suggest that the current fiscal situation for the Japanese government is not sustainable.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17305.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17305.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Publication status: published as Doi, Takero & Hoshi, Takeo & Okimoto, Tatsuyoshi, 2011. "Japanese government debt and sustainability of fiscal policy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 414-433.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17305
Note: CF ME PE
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  1. Troy Davig & Eric M. Leeper, 2007. "Fluctuating Macro Policies and the Fiscal Theory," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 247-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Smith, Aaron & Naik, Prasad A. & Tsai, Chih-Ling, 2006. "Markov-switching model selection using Kullback-Leibler divergence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 134(2), pages 553-577, October.
  3. Troy Davig & Eric Leeper, 2009. "Monetary-Fiscal Policy Interactions And Fiscal Stimulus," Caepr Working Papers 2009-010, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  4. Doi, Takero & Hoshi, Takeo & Okimoto, Tatsuyoshi, 2011. "Japanese government debt and sustainability of fiscal policy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 414-433.
  5. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "State-Space Models with Regime Switching: Classical and Gibbs-Sampling Approaches with Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262112388, June.
  6. Robert J. Hodrick & Edward Prescott, 1981. "Post-War U.S. Business Cycles: An Empirical Investigation," Discussion Papers 451, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Ito, Arata & Watanabe, Tsutomu & Yabu, Tomoyoshi, 2011. "Fiscal policy switching in Japan, the US, and the UK," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 380-413.
  8. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior Of U.S. Public Debt And Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963, August.
  9. Leeper, Eric M., 1991. "Equilibria under 'active' and 'passive' monetary and fiscal policies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 129-147, February.
  10. Barro, Robert J, 1986. " U.S. Deficits since World War I," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 195-22.
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