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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

Suggested Citation

  • Enrique G. Mendoza & P. Marcelo Oviedo, 2006. "Fiscal Policy and Macroeconomic Uncertainty in Emerging Markets: The Tale of the Tormented Insurer," 2006 Meeting Papers 377, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed006:377

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pablo D'Erasmo & Enrique G. Mendoza & Jing Zhang, 2015. "What is a Sustainable Public Debt?," NBER Working Papers 21574, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Diego Valderrama & Katherine Smith, 2009. "Why Do Emerging Economies Import Direct Investment and Export Savings? A Story of Financial Underdevelopment," 2009 Meeting Papers 1160, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Juan Equiza Goni, 2014. "Sovereign Debt in the U.S. and Growth Expectations," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2014-25, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    4. repec:eee:macchp:v2-2493 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Warmedinger, Thomas & Checherita-Westphal, Cristina & Drudi, Francesco & Setzer, Ralph & De Stefani, Roberta & Bouabdallah, Othman & Westphal, Andreas, 2017. "Debt sustainability analysis for euro area sovereigns: a methodological framework," Occasional Paper Series 185, European Central Bank.
    6. -, 2008. "Public debt sustainability in the Caribbean," Sede Subregional de la CEPAL para el Caribe (Estudios e Investigaciones) 38710, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).

    More about this item


    optimal debt; fiscal solvency; procyclical fiscal policy; incomplete markets;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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