IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/wbk/wbrwps/2109.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

When is fiscal adjustment an illusion?

Author

Listed:
  • Easterly, William

Abstract

Fiscal adjustment is an illusion when it lowers the budget deficit or public debt but leaves the government's net worth unchanged, says the author. Conventional measures of the budget deficit largely measure the change in explicit public sector liabilities (debt). A more appropriate measure of the deficit would be the change in public sector net worth, but many criticize this concept as impossible to measure. The author takes a positive, rather than normative, approach to the net worth definition of fiscal balance. A simple model shows that when an outside agent forces a reduction in a government's conventional deficit (debt accumulation), the government will respond by lowering its asset accumulation or by increasing hidden liabilities. That leaves net worth unchanged, so fiscal adjustment is an illusion. He performs some simple empirical tests on the observational predictions of the model, examining a sample of countries with World Bank and International Monetary Fund adjustmentprograms and case studies of Maastricht Euro countries. The results confirm the model predictions: Fiscal adjustment in these countries was at least partly an illusion.

Suggested Citation

  • Easterly, William, 1999. "When is fiscal adjustment an illusion?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2109, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2109
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/1999/09/14/000094946_99060201522384/Rendered/PDF/multi_page.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Alberto Alesina & Tamim Bayoumi, 1996. "The Costs and Benefits of Fiscal Rules: Evidence from U.S. States," NBER Working Papers 5614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Eichengreen, Barry & von Hagen, Jürgen, 1995. "Fiscal Policy and Monetary Union: Federalism, Fiscal Restrictions and the No-Bailout Rule," CEPR Discussion Papers 1247, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Pritchett, Lant, 1996. "Mind your P's and Q's : the cost of public investment is not the value of public capital," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1660, The World Bank.
    4. Bohn, Henning, 1992. "Budget deficits and government accounting," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 1-83, December.
    5. Buiter, W.H. & Corsetti, G. & Roubini, N., 1992. "Excessive Deficits: Sense and Nonsence in the Treaty of Maastricht," Papers 674, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    6. Eduardo Engel & Ronald Fischer & Alexander Galetovic, 1998. "Infraestructure Franchising and Government Guarantees," Documentos de Trabajo 29, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    7. Barry Eichengreen & Jürgen Hagen, 1996. "Fiscal restrictions and monetary union: Rationales, repercussions, reforms," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 3-23, February.
    8. International Monetary Fund, 1997. "Zambia: Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix," IMF Staff Country Reports 1997/118, International Monetary Fund.
    9. Mr. George A Mackenzie & Mr. Peter Stella, 1996. "Quasi-Fiscal Operations of Public Financial Institutions," IMF Occasional Papers 1996/008, International Monetary Fund.
    10. International Monetary Fund, 1996. "Zaire: Background Information and Statistical Data," IMF Staff Country Reports 1996/028, International Monetary Fund.
    11. Robert Holzmann & Yves Hervé & Roland Demmel, 1996. "The maastricht fiscal criteria: Required but ineffective?," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 25-58, February.
    12. Eisner, Robert & Pieper, Paul J, 1986. "A New View of the Federal Debt and Budget Deficits: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1156-1157, December.
    13. Bohn, Henning & Inman, Robert P., 1996. "Balanced-budget rules and public deficits: evidence from the U.S. states," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 13-76, December.
    14. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1995. "Fiscal Expansions and Fiscal Adjustments in OECD Countries," NBER Working Papers 5214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Blejer, Mario I & Cheasty, Adrienne, 1991. "The Measurement of Fiscal Deficits: Analytical and Methodological Issues," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1644-1678, December.
    16. Poterba, James M, 1994. "State Responses to Fiscal Crises: The Effects of Budgetary Institutions and Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 799-821, August.
    17. Henning Bohn & Robert P. Inman, "undated". "Balanced Budget Rules and Public Deficits: Evidence from the U.S. States (Reprint 060)," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 10-96, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
    18. Mr. George Kopits, 1997. "Are Europe's Social Security Finances Compatible with EMU?," IMF Policy Discussion Papers 1997/003, International Monetary Fund.
    19. Mr. James A John & Mr. Adam Bennett & Ms. María Vicenta Carkovic S. & Mr. Louis Dicks-Mireaux & Mr. Mauro Mecagni & Mr. Miguel A Savastano & Ms. Susan M Schadler, 1995. "IMF Conditionality: Experience Under Stand-by and Extended Arrangements, Part I: Key Issues and Findings," IMF Occasional Papers 1995/009, International Monetary Fund.
    20. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Stanley Fischer, 1989. "Lectures on Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262022834.
    21. Barry Eichengreen & Charles Wyplosz, 1998. "The Stability Pact: more than a minor nuisance?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 13(26), pages 66-113.
    22. Eisner, Robert, 1984. "Which Budget Deficit? Some Issues of Measurement and Their Implications," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 138-143, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2004. "Good, bad or ugly? On the effects of fiscal rules with creative accounting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 377-394, January.
    2. Ali Bayar, 1999. "Entry and Exit Dynamics of 'Excessive Deficits' in the European Union," CESifo Working Paper Series 216, CESifo.
    3. Alfons J. Weichenrieder, 2009. "A Note on Local Public Investment and Debt Limitation in a Federation," Finnish Economic Papers, Finnish Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 3-8, Spring.
    4. Maltritz, Dominik & Wüste, Sebastian, 2015. "Determinants of budget deficits in Europe: The role and relations of fiscal rules, fiscal councils, creative accounting and the Euro," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 222-236.
    5. Aaron Schneider, 2006. "Responding to fiscal stress: Fiscal institutions and fiscal adjustment in four Brazilian states," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(3), pages 402-425.
    6. Timothy C. Irwin, 2015. "Defining The Government'S Debt And Deficit," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 711-732, September.
    7. Pierre-Yves Hénin, 1997. "Soutenabilité des déficits et ajustements budgétaires," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 48(3), pages 371-395.
    8. Guerguil, Martine & Mandon, Pierre & Tapsoba, René, 2017. "Flexible fiscal rules and countercyclical fiscal policy," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 189-220.
    9. von Hagen, Jurgen & Wolff, Guntram B., 2006. "What do deficits tell us about debt? Empirical evidence on creative accounting with fiscal rules in the EU," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 3259-3279, December.
    10. Svec Justin & Kondo Ayako, 2012. "Fiscal Policy Cyclicality and Growth within the US States," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 1-35, March.
    11. Reuter, Wolf Heinrich, 2015. "National numerical fiscal rules: Not complied with, but still effective?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 67-81.
    12. Bernd Hayo & Florian Neumeier, 2016. "The debt brake in the eyes of the German population," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 139-159, January.
    13. Bernd Hayo & Florian Neumeier, 2016. "The debt brake in the eyes of the German population," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 139-159, January.
    14. Sorensen, Bent E. & Yosha, Oved, 1998. "International risk sharing and European monetary unification," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 211-238, August.
    15. Robert P. Inman, 1996. "Do Balanced Budget Rules Work? U.S. Experience and Possible Lessons for the EMU," NBER Working Papers 5838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Wagner, Gary A., 2003. "Are state budget stabilization funds only the illusion of savings?: Evidence from stationary panel data," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 213-238.
    17. James E. Payne, 2003. "A Survey of the International Empirical Evidence on the Tax-Spend Debate," Public Finance Review, , vol. 31(3), pages 302-324, May.
    18. Mr. Guiseppe Pisauro, 2001. "Intergovernmental Relations and Fiscal Discipline: Between Commons and Soft Budget Constraints," IMF Working Papers 2001/065, International Monetary Fund.
    19. Stasavage, David & Moyo, Dambisa, 2000. "Are Cash Budgets a Cure for Excess Fiscal Deficits (and at What Cost)?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 2105-2122, December.
    20. Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Gregory Mankiw, N., 1999. "Government debt," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 25, pages 1615-1669, Elsevier.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2109. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/dvewbus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Roula I. Yazigi (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/dvewbus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.