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Measuring Fiscal Sustainability

  • Vito Polito
  • Mike Wickens

We propose an index of the fiscal stance that is convenient for practical use. It is based on a finite time horizon, not on an infinite time horizon like most tests. As it employs VAR analysis it is simple to compute and easily automated. We also show how it is possible to analyse a change of policy within a VAR framework. We use this methodology to examine the effect on fiscal sustainability of a change in policy. We then conduct an empirical examination of the fiscal stances of the US, the UK and Germany over the last 25 or more years, and we carry out a counter-factual analysis of the likely consequences for fiscal sustainability of using a Taylor rule to set monetary policy over this period. Among our findings are that the recent fiscal stances of all three countries are not sustainable, and that using a Taylor rule in the past would have improved the fiscal stances of the US and UK, but not that of Germany.

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Paper provided by Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis in its series CDMA Conference Paper Series with number 0503.

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Date of creation: Jun 2005
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Handle: RePEc:san:cdmacp:0503
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Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL

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  1. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior of U. S. Public Debt and Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963.
  2. Henning Bohn, 2005. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in the United States," CESifo Working Paper Series 1446, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E, 1991. "Testing Intertemporal Budget Constraints: Theory and Applications to U.S. Federal Budget and Current Account Deficits," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(2), pages 206-23, May.
  4. David W. Wilcox, 1987. "The substainability of government deficits: implications of the present- value borrowing constraint," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 77, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  5. Bohn, Henning, 1995. "The Sustainability of Budget Deficits in a Stochastic Economy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(1), pages 257-71, February.
  6. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E., 1988. "Common trends, the government's budget constraint, and revenue smoothing," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 425-444.
  7. Bohn, H., 1991. "Budget Balance Through Revenue or Spending Adjustments? Some Historical Evidence for the United States," Weiss Center Working Papers 3-91, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  8. Henning Bohn, . "Budget Deficits and Government Accounting," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 28-91, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  9. Wickens, M. R. & Uctum, Merih, 1993. "The sustainability of current account deficits : A test of the US intertemporal budget constraint," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 423-441, May.
  10. James D. Hamilton & Marjorie A. Flavin, 1985. "On the Limitations of Government Borrowing: A Framework for Empirical Testing," NBER Working Papers 1632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Hakkio, Craig S & Rush, Mark, 1991. "Is the Budget Deficit "Too Large?"," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(3), pages 429-45, July.
  12. Uctum, Merih & Wickens, Michael, 2000. " Debt and Deficit Ceilings, and Sustainability of Fiscal Policies: An Intertemporal Analysis," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 62(2), pages 197-222, May.
  13. Shaghil Ahmed & John H. Rogers, 1995. "Government budget deficits and trade deficits: are present value constraints satisfied in long-term data?," International Finance Discussion Papers 494, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. Henning Bohn, . "Budget Balance Through Revenue or Spending Adjustments ? Some Historical Evidence for the United States (Reprint 013)," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 3-91, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
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