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Laws for fiscal responsibility for subnational discipline : international experience


  • Liu, Lili
  • Webb, Steven B.


Fiscal responsibility laws are institutions with which multiple governments in the same economy -- national and subnational --can commit to help avoid irresponsible fiscal behavior that could have short-term advantages to one of them but that would be collectively damaging. Coordination failures with subnational governments in the 1990s contributed to macroeconomic instability and led several countries to adopt fiscal responsibility laws as part of the remedy. The paper analyzes the characteristics and effects of fiscal responsibility laws in seven countries -- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, and Peru. Fiscal responsibility laws are designed to address the short time horizons of policymakers, free riders among government units, and principal agent problems between the national and subnational governments. The paper describes how the laws differ in the specificity of quantitative targets, the strength of sanctions, the methods for increasing transparency, and the level of government passing the law. Evidence shows that fiscal responsibility laws can help coordinate and sustain commitments to fiscal prudence, but they are not a substitute for commitment and should not be viewed as ends in themselves. They can make a positive contribution by adding to the collection of other measures to shore up a coalition of states with the central government in support of fiscal prudence. Policymakers contemplating fiscal responsibility laws may benefit from the systematic review of international practice. One common trait of successful fiscal responsibility laws for subnational governments is the commitment of the central government to its own fiscal prudence, which is usually reinforced by the application of the law at the national as well as the subnational level.

Suggested Citation

  • Liu, Lili & Webb, Steven B., 2011. "Laws for fiscal responsibility for subnational discipline : international experience," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5587, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5587

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    1. Braun, Miguel & Gadano, Nicolás, 2007. "¿Para qué sirven las reglas fiscales?: un análisis crítico de la experiencia argentina," Revista CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), April.
    2. John Joseph Wallis & Richard E. Sylla & Arthur Grinath III, 2004. "Sovereign Debt and Repudiation: The Emerging-Market Debt Crisis in the U.S. States, 1839-1843," NBER Working Papers 10753, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mariano Tommasi & Miguel Braun, 2002. "Fiscal Rules for Subnational Governments. Some Organizing Principles and Latin American Experiences," Working Papers 44, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised Mar 2002.
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    Cited by:

    1. Canuto, Otaviano & Liu, Lili, 2013. "Subnational Debt, Insolvency, and Market Development," World Bank - Economic Premise, The World Bank, issue 112, pages 1-7, April.
    2. Feld Lars P., 2012. "Europa in der Welt von heute: Wilhelm Röpke und die Zukunft der Europäischen Währungsunion / Europe in Today′s World: Wilhelm Röpke and the Future of the European Monetary Union," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 63(1), pages 403-428, January.
    3. Blume, Lorenz & Voigt, Stefan, 2013. "The economic effects of constitutional budget institutions," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 236-251.
    4. Raj Nallari & Breda Griffith & Shahid Yusuf, 2012. "Geography of Growth : Spatial Economics and Competitiveness," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6020, April.
    5. Narayan, Laxmi, 2017. "Growth of Public Debt in Haryana – Dynamism or Misplaced Priorities," MPRA Paper 79431, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 05 May 2017.
    6. Otaviano Canuto & Lili Liu, 2013. "Until Debt Do Us Part : Subnational Debt, Insolvency, and Markets," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 12597, April.

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    Debt Markets; Banks&Banking Reform; Subnational Economic Development; Public Sector Economics; Access to Finance;

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