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The Costs of Fiscal Inflexibility

Author

Listed:
  • Campbell Leith

    (University of Glasgow)

  • Simon Wren-lewis

    (University of Exeter)

Abstract

Extending Gali and Monacelli (2004), we build an N-country open economy model, where each economy is subject to sticky wages and prices and, potentially, has access to sales and income taxes as well as government spending as fiscal instruments. We examine an economy either as a small open economy operating under flexible exchange rates or as a member of a monetary union. In a small open economy when all three fiscal instruments are freely available, we show analytically that the welfare impact of technology and mark-up shocks can be completely eliminated (in the sense that policy can replicate the efficient flex price equilibrium), whether policy acts with discretion or commitment. However, once any one of these fiscal instruments is excluded as a stabilisation tool, costs can emerge. Using simulations, we find that the useful fiscal instrument in this case (in the sense of reducing the welfare costs of the shock) is either income taxes or sales taxes. In constrast, having government spending as an instrument contributes very little. The results for an individual member of a monetary union facing an idiosyncratic technology shock (where monetary policy in the union does not respond) are very different. First, even with all fiscal instruments freely available, the technology shock will incur welfare costs. Government spending is potentially useful as a stabilisation device, because it can act as a partial substitute for monetary policy. Finally, sales taxes are more effective than income taxes at reducing the costs of a technology shock under monetary union. If all three taxes are available, they can reduce the impact of the technology shock on the union member by around a half, compared to the case where fiscal policy is not used. Finally we consider the robustness of these results to two extensions. Firstly, introducing government debt, such that policy makers take account of the debt consequences of using fiscal instruments as stabilisation devices, and, secondly, introducing implementation lags in the use of fiscal instruments. We find that the need for debt sustainability has a very limited impact on the use of fiscal instruments for stabilisation purposes, while implementation lags can reduce, but not eliminate, the gains from fiscal stabilisation.

Suggested Citation

  • Campbell Leith & Simon Wren-lewis, 2006. "The Costs of Fiscal Inflexibility," WEF Working Papers 0005, ESRC World Economy and Finance Research Programme, Birkbeck, University of London.
  • Handle: RePEc:wef:wpaper:0005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Currie,David & Levine,Paul, 2009. "Rules, Reputation and Macroeconomic Policy Coordination," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521104609, May.
    2. Mark Gertler & Jordi Gali & Richard Clarida, 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1661-1707, December.
    3. Richard Clarida & Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 2001. "Optimal Monetary Policy in Open versus Closed Economies: An Integrated Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 248-252, May.
    4. Beetsma, Roel M. W. J. & Jensen, Henrik, 2004. "Mark-up fluctuations and fiscal policy stabilization in a monetary union," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 357-376, June.
    5. Calvo, Guillermo A., 1983. "Staggered prices in a utility-maximizing framework," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 383-398, September.
    6. Ellison, Martin & Rankin, Neil, 2007. "Optimal monetary policy when lump-sum taxes are unavailable: A reconsideration of the outcomes under commitment and discretion," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 219-243, January.
    7. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-971, October.
    8. Campbell Leith & Simon Wren‐Lewis, 2013. "Fiscal Sustainability in a New Keynesian Model," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(8), pages 1477-1516, December.
    9. Leith, Campbell & Malley, Jim, 2005. "Estimated general equilibrium models for the evaluation of monetary policy in the US and Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(8), pages 2137-2159, November.
    10. Pierpaolo Benigno & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy: A Linear-Quadratic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2003, Volume 18, pages 271-364 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Leith, Campbell & Wren-Lewis, Simon, 2006. "Compatibility between monetary and fiscal policy under EMU," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(6), pages 1529-1556, August.
    12. Lombardo, Giovanni & Sutherland, Alan, 2004. "Monetary and fiscal interactions in open economies," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 319-347, June.
    13. Soderlind, Paul, 1999. "Solution and estimation of RE macromodels with optimal policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 813-823, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Clinton, Kevin & Kumhof, Michael & Laxton, Douglas & Mursula, Susanna, 2011. "Deficit reduction: Short-term pain for long-term gain," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 118-139, January.
    2. Cambell Leith & Simon Wren-Lewis, 2006. " The Optimal Monetary Policy Response to Exchange Rate Misalignments," CDMA Conference Paper Series 0605, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    3. Campbell Leith & Simon Wren‐Lewis, 2013. "Fiscal Sustainability in a New Keynesian Model," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(8), pages 1477-1516, December.
    4. Kumhof, Michael & Laxton, Douglas & Leigh, Daniel, 2014. "To starve or not to starve the beast?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 39(PA), pages 1-23.
    5. Moyen, Stéphane & Stähler, Nikolai, 2009. "Unemployment insurance and the business cycle: prolong benefit entitlements in bad times?," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2009,30, Deutsche Bundesbank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics

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