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Fiscal Policy in Debt Constrained Economies


  • Mark A. Aguiar
  • Manuel Amador


We study optimal fiscal policy in a small open economy (SOE) with sovereign and private default risk. The SOE's government uses linear taxation to fund exogenous expenditures and uses public debt to inter-temporally allocate tax distortions. We characterize a class of environments in which the tax on labor goes to zero in the long run, while the tax on capital income may be non-zero, reversing the standard prediction of the Ramsey tax literature. The zero labor tax is an optimal long run outcome if the private agents are impatient relative to the international interest rate and the economy is subject to sovereign debt constraints. The front loading of labor taxes allows the economy to build a large (aggregate) debt position in the presence of limited commitment. We show that a similar result holds in a closed economy with imperfect inter-generational altruism.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark A. Aguiar & Manuel Amador, 2011. "Fiscal Policy in Debt Constrained Economies," NBER Working Papers 17457, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17457
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Demange, Gabrielle, 2012. "Contagion in financial networks: A threat index," CEPR Discussion Papers 8793, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Debasish Kumar Das, 2016. "Determinants of current account imbalance in the global economy: a dynamic panel analysis," Journal of Economic Structures, Springer;Pan-Pacific Association of Input-Output Studies (PAPAIOS), vol. 5(1), pages 1-24, December.
    3. Bauducco, Sofia & Caprioli, Francesco, 2014. "Optimal fiscal policy in a small open economy with limited commitment," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 302-315.
    4. Braun, R. Anton & Joines, Douglas H., 2015. "The implications of a graying Japan for government policy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 1-23.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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