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Fiscal Policy and Macroeconomic Uncertainty in Emerging Markets: The Tale of the Tormented Insurer

  • Enrique G. Mendoza


    (University of Maryland)

  • P. Marcelo Oviedo

Governments in emerging markets often behave like a "tormented insurer", trying to use non-state-contingent debt instruments to avoid sharp adjustments in their payments to private agents despite sharp fluctuations in public revenues. In the data, their ability to sustain debt is inversely related to the variability of their revenues, and their primary balances and current expenditures follow a procyclical pattern that contrasts sharply with the evidence from industrial countries. This paper proposes an equilibrium model of a small open economy with incomplete markets and aggregate uncertainty that can rationalize this behavior. In the model, a fiscal authority that chooses optimal expenditure and debt plans given stochastic revenues interacts with private agents that also make optimal consumption and asset accumulation plans. The competitive equilibrium of this economy is solved numerically as a Markov perfect equilibrium using parameter values calibrated to Mexican data. If perfect domestic risk pooling were possible, the ratio of public-to-private expenditures would be constant. With incomplete markets, however, this ratio fluctuates widely and results in welfare losses that dwarf previous estimates of the benefits of risk sharing and consumption smoothing. The model also yields a negative relationship between average public debt and revenue variability similar to the one observed in the data, and a correlation between output and government purchases that matches Mexican data

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2006 Meeting Papers with number 377.

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Date of creation: 03 Dec 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed006:377
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA
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  1. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. S. Rao Aiyagari & Albert Marcet & Thomas J. Sargent & Juha Seppala, 2002. "Optimal Taxation without State-Contingent Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1220-1254, December.
  3. Bennett Sutton & Luis Catão, 2002. "Sovereign Defaults: The Role of Volatility," IMF Working Papers 02/149, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1996. "Nobel Lecture: Monetary Neutrality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(4), pages 661-82, August.
  5. Oya Celasun & Xavier Debrun & Jonathan D. Ostry, 2006. "Primary Surplus Behavior and Risks to Fiscal Sustainability in Emerging Market Countries: A "Fan-Chart" Approach," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 53(3), pages 3.
  6. Reinhart, Carmen & Kaminsky, Graciela & Vegh, Carlos, 2004. "When it rains, it pours: Procyclical capital flows and macroeconomic policies," MPRA Paper 13883, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. 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.
  8. Pablo Andres Neumeyer & Fabrizio Perri, 1999. "Business Cycles in Emerging Economies: the role of interest rates," Department of Economics Working Papers 014, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
  9. Tauchen, George & Hussey, Robert, 1991. "Quadrature-Based Methods for Obtaining Approximate Solutions to Nonlinear Asset Pricing Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 371-96, March.
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