High levels of public debt are correlated with lower economic growth across countries, but questions remain about whether this relationship is causal. Using Chinese data, this column explores whether increasing public debt crowds out private investment. City-level investment ratios are found to be negatively correlated with local government debt for private manufacturing firms, but not for state-owned or foreign-owned manufacturers. This suggests that as well as the short-term benefits of fiscal stimulus, there might also be negative longer-term effects, such as the crowding out of more efficient firms.
Yi Huang, Marco Pagano, Ugo Panizza, 03 November 2016
Jan in 't Veld, 09 September 2016
The spillover effects of a fiscal stimulus in normal times are likely to be small, at best. This column argues, however, that when interest rates are stuck at the zero lower bound and monetary policy does not offset the expansion, public investment in surplus countries could have significant positive GDP spillovers to the rest of the Eurozone. Given current low borrowing costs, the increase in government debt for surplus countries would be modest, while debt ratios in the rest of the Eurozone could be improved.
Alisdair McKay, Ricardo Reis, 14 July 2016
Brexit has raised the possibility of a recession on both sides of the Atlantic. Unable to use traditional remedies like monetary or fiscal policy stimulus, policymakers may consider automatic fiscal stabilisers. This column examines the impact of automatic stabilisers through social insurance on the business cycle, and how its impact can be used to mitigate recession. Unemployment insurance or food stamps would be better than progressive taxes at stimulating aggregate demand. The main economic channels policymakers must consider are those related to risk and precautionary savings.
Marco Buti, Nicolas Carnot, 24 February 2015
In an uncertain world, fiscal policy must be robust to a range of models. This column introduces a rule of thumb governing fiscal expansion that is consistent for a group of countries, and for each country individually. Applying this rule to the Eurozone recommends overall fiscal neutrality, with moderate consolidation in France and Spain, lower consolidation in Italy, and moderate stimulus in Germany. This policy is optimal for Germany even without taking into account positive spillovers to other members.
Jordi Galí, 03 October 2014
Many unconventional policies adopted by central banks in response to the Crisis failed to boost the economy. This column discusses the effects of a temporary money-financed fiscal stimulus. When a more realistic model is allowed, such a stimulus can have a strong effect on output and employment, and a mild effect on inflation.
Jonathan Parker, 17 June 2014
Governments around the world are searching for macro-stimulation instruments. This column discusses evidence showing that rebate-type payments policies generate substantial increases in demand for goods and services. In particular, a large portion of tax rebates are spent rapidly on arrival.
Christiane Nickel, Andreas Tudyka, 07 September 2013
Fiscal stimulus can either be a boon for an economy or its bane. This column discusses new empirical research on how the effects of fiscal stimuli interact with public debt-to-GDP ratios. Using data on real GDP, private investment and the trade balance, evidence suggests that the cumulative effect on real GDP is positive at moderate debt-to-GDP ratios but turns negative as the ratio increases. The evidence also suggests that the cumulative trade-balance effect is negative at first but switches sign at higher degrees of indebtedness.
Joseph Stiglitz, 09 May 2013
The world has seen a hundred financial crises in the past three decades. In this column, Nobelist Joe Stiglitz argues that we could have done much more to prevent this crisis and to mitigate its effects. Looking ahead, we can do much more to prevent the next one. This is a chance to revolutionise flawed economic models, and perhaps exit from an interminable cycle of crises.
David Romer, 09 May 2013
Pre-2008 macroeconomic thinking largely ignored the financial sector as a source of shocks. This column argues that such shocks are not rare, so we need a fundamental rethink of the financial system and macroeconomic policy frameworks. We must think about strong measures that would minimise the chances of anything similar happening again. The reforms considered to date are too small and too meek.
Olivier Blanchard, 09 May 2013
Macroeconomics was challenged by the Global Crisis. In this column, one of the world’s leading macroeconomists provides his take on the highlights of the IMF’s recent conference. He concludes by noting that the conference set a clear research agenda for the future.
George Akerlof, 09 May 2013
Economists did very badly in predicting the crisis. But in this column, Nobelist George Akerlof argues that the economic policies post-crisis have been close to what a sensible ‘economist-doctor’ would have ordered. The lesson for the future is that good economics and common sense have worked well. We have had trial and success. We must keep this in mind with policy going forward.
Alan Auerbach, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 10 December 2012
It's tough out there for policymakers seeking to stabilise economies, and shocks from abroad aren't helping. This column argues that for countries hit by recession, fiscal stimulus in another country might significantly stimulate demand back at home, softening the worse effects of the current crisis. The evidence suggests that transnational coordination of fiscal policy may well be more valuable than previously thought.
Jeffrey Frankel, 07 August 2012
Is austerity good or bad? This column argues that it is as foolish to argue this question as it would be to debate whether it is better to drive on the left or right. Procyclical fiscal policy, on the other hand, is another question.
Céline Carrère, Jaime de Melo, 17 May 2012
It is not just the OECD countries where fiscal policy is the subject of fierce debate. This column presents results from an “event analysis” carried out on a database of 140 countries over the period 1972-2005. It suggests that, for developing countries at least, a fiscal stimulus can be effective – provided the rest of the economy is stable and the fiscal deficit is low.
Pontus Rendahl, 26 April 2012
Many developed economies are in a liquidity trap with interest rates at or near zero. Many also have high unemployment that looks set to persist. This column argues that it is times like these when governments should be spending more, not less – they just have to be careful how they do it.
Yothin Jinjarak, Joshua Aizenman, 30 September 2011
In the immediate fallout from the global crisis, governments around the world responded by spending big. Yet despite the talk of international coordination, this wasn’t the case in all countries. This column explores why. It finds that trade openness, fiscal space, and exchange-rate policy played a pivotal role.
Roger Farmer, Dmitry Plotnikov, 05 September 2011
Can government spending help the economy recover from a recession by boosting job creation and lowering unemployment? Or is it a waste of money? This column addresses this question and others using a unique framework. It explains why fiscal policy was effective at ending the Great Depression but it argues that a big fiscal expansion may not be the best solution this time round.
John Muellbauer, Keiko Murata, 21 August 2011
The global crisis of 2008-2009 has refocused attention on the lessons of Japan’s lost decade, with many suggesting that Europe and the US are heading the same direction. This makes a thorough understanding of the Japanese case an urgent matter. But this column argues that pushing the analogies too far is a mistake that could prolong the economic pain.
Thorsten Drautzburg, Harald Uhlig, 31 July 2011
The debt crises in the Eurozone and the US are reminders that all government expenditures must eventually be financed by tax revenues. This column analyses the effect of the US fiscal stimulus programme and argues that abstracting from financing decisions presents a skewed version of the net benefits to society.
Hyunseung Oh, Ricardo Reis, 04 May 2011
Government spending and its effect on the economy is a perpetual source of debate. This column argues that too much discussion has focused on government purchases, when the fiscal expansion from 2007 to 2009 was all about transfers. It suggests that fiscal spending on transfers can boost the economy in a recession, though only if the transfer moves resources between the right groups.