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Population Ageing and the Efficiency of Fiscal Policy in New Zealand

New Zealand’s ageing population is expected to have a significant impact on long-term government expenditure, particularly in the areas of health and superannuation. Recent projections from Treasury’s Long-Term Fiscal Model suggest that, under current policy settings, government expenditure (excluding financing costs) will increase by approximately seven percentage points of GDP by 2050. From the perspective of economic efficiency, we consider several methods for financing that expenditure. We find that tax smoothing is significantly more efficient, from a welfare perspective, than balancing the budget. This result is primarily due to our assumption that the assets accumulated under tax smoothing earn an average return over the government’s cost of borrowing. This excess return is not without risk. By modelling asset returns and economic growth in a stochastic manner we find that tax smoothing with a diversified portfolio of financial instruments may also reduce year-on-year tax rate volatility. Introducing practical considerations, in particular expenditure creep (where additional government spending is triggered by an improving balance sheet position), tips the scales in favour of a balanced budget approach. Hence, strong fiscal institutions are a prerequisite for achieving the welfare gains from tax smoothing.

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Paper provided by New Zealand Treasury in its series Treasury Working Paper Series with number 02/11.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:02/11
Contact details of provider: Postal: New Zealand Treasury, PO Box 3724, Wellington, New Zealand
Phone: +64-4-472 2733
Fax: +64-4-473 0982
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  1. Cutler, D.M. & Poterba, J.M. & Sheiner, L.M. & Summers, L.H., 1990. "An Aging Society: Opportunity Or Challenge," Working papers 553, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2004. "The Social Discount Rate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1257-1268, December.
  3. Browning, Edgar K., 1995. "Effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Income and Welfare," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(1), pages 23-43, March.
  4. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  5. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  6. Killingsworth, Mark R. & Heckman, James J., 1987. "Female labor supply: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 103-204 Elsevier.
  7. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  8. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Political Economy of Budget Deficits," NBER Working Papers 4637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1995. "Fiscal Expansions and Fiscal Adjustments in OECD Countries," NBER Working Papers 5214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Nick Davis, . "Governance of Crown Financial Assets," Treasury Working Paper Series 98/02, New Zealand Treasury.
  11. Bohn, Henning, 1990. "Tax Smoothing with Financial Instruments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1217-30, December.
  12. Thai-Thanh Dang & Pablo Antolín & Howard Oxley, 2001. "Fiscal Implications of Ageing: Projections of Age-Related Spending," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 305, OECD Publishing.
  13. Pencavel, John, 1987. "Labor supply of men: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 3-102 Elsevier.
  14. Polackova, Hana, 1997. "Population aging and financing of government liabilities in New Zealand," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1703, The World Bank.
  15. John Woods, 2000. "Manual for the Long Term Fiscal Model," Treasury Working Paper Series 00/02, New Zealand Treasury.
  16. Jeff Huther, . "An Application of Portfolio Theory to New Zealand's Public Sector," Treasury Working Paper Series 98/04, New Zealand Treasury.
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