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The Costs of Fiscal Inflexibility

  • Campbell Leith

    (University of Glasgow)

  • Simon Wren-lewis

    (University of Exeter)

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.

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Paper provided by ESRC World Economy and Finance Research Programme, Birkbeck, University of London in its series WEF Working Papers with number 0005.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wef:wpaper:0005
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  1. 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.
  2. Lombardo, Giovanni & Sutherland, Alan, 2004. "Monetary and fiscal interactions in open economies," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 319-347, June.
  3. Richard Clarida & Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," NBER Working Papers 7147, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Soderlind, Paul, 1999. "Solution and estimation of RE macromodels with optimal policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 813-823, April.
  5. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  6. Campbell Leith & Simon Wren-Lewis, 2006. "Fiscal Sustainability in a New Keynesian Model," Working Papers 2006_11, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Nov 2008.
  7. Currie,David & Levine,Paul, 1993. "Rules, Reputation and Macroeconomic Policy Coordination," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521441964, October.
  8. 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.
  9. Campbell Leith & Jim Malley, 2002. "Estimated General Equilibrium Models for the Evaluation of Monetary Policy in the US and Europe," CESifo Working Paper Series 699, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Campbell leith & Simon Wren-Lewis, . "Compatibility Between Monetary and Fiscal Policy Under EMU," Working Papers 2001_15, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  13. Calvo, Guillermo A., 1983. "Staggered prices in a utility-maximizing framework," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 383-398, September.
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