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Are Windfalls a Curse? A Non-Representative Agent Model of the Current Account and Fiscal Policy

  • Aaron Tornell
  • Philip Lane

In several countries temporary terms of trade improvements have led to a deterioration of the current account. Furthermore, many of these countries failed to attain greater post-boom growth rates. The point we make is that the structure of the fiscal process is critical in determining outcomes. If fiscal control is unitary, then the consumption-smoothing effect is operative, and representative-agent models of the current account have predictive power. However, if control is divided among several fiscal claimants, a voracity effect appears which counteracts the consumption-smoothing effect, leading to a deterioration of the current account in response to a positive shock. We model the interaction among fiscal claimants as a dynamic game, and show that in equilibrium aggregate appropriation increases more than the windfall itself. This results in a deterioration of the current account. We also show that all the windfall is dissipated, with the country experiencing no increase in its growth rate. Lastly, we analyze the experiences of seven countries which have enjoyed large windfalls.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4839.

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Date of creation: Aug 1994
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Publication status: published as Journal of International Economics, vol. 44, pp. 83-112, 1998,
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4839
Note: IFM
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  1. Sachs, Jeffrey, 1982. " The Current Account in the Macroeconomic Adjustment Process," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 84(2), pages 147-59.
  2. Alesina, Alberto & Perotti, Roberto, 1997. "The Welfare State and Competitiveness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 921-39, December.
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  7. Pinto, Brian, 1987. "Nigeria during and after the Oil Boom: A Policy Comparison with Indonesia," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 1(3), pages 419-45, May.
  8. Jonathan Eaton, 1991. "Sovereign Debt: A Primer," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 21, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  9. Cohen, Daniel & Sachs, Jeffrey, 1986. "Growth and external debt under risk of debt repudiation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 529-560, June.
  10. Olivier J. Blanchard & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane, 1993. "What do Firms do with Cash Windfalls?," NBER Working Papers 4258, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Corden, W Max & Neary, J Peter, 1982. "Booming Sector and De-Industrialisation in a Small Open Economy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 825-48, December.
  12. Devarajan, Shantayanan & de Melo, Jaime, 1987. "Adjustment with a Fixed Exchange Rate: Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, and Senegal," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 1(3), pages 447-87, May.
  13. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1982. "Aggregate Spending and the Terms of Trade: Is There a Laursen-Metzler Effect?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(2), pages 251-70, May.
  14. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 1994. "The Intertemporal Approach to the Current Account," NBER Working Papers 4893, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Dornbusch, Rudiger, 1983. "Real Interest Rates, Home Goods, and Optimal External Borrowing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 141-53, February.
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