Increased globalisation since the mid-1990s has eroded some of the tax bases of many economies. At the same time, demand for public goods has risen and governments face the challenge of financing greater public expenditure with lower tax revenues. This column discusses tax policy responses to increasing globalisation, showing that since the mid-1990s governments in OECD countries have increasingly relied on revenues from employee-borne rather than firm-borne taxes. Due to the greater mobility of capital and high-skilled workers, who are able to escape higher taxes more easily, the middle classes have carried much of the additional tax burden.
Peter Egger, Sergey Nigai, Nora Strecker, 21 May 2016
Roel Beetsma, Xavier Debrun, 16 May 2016
The success of independent central banks is often used to argue in favour of independent fiscal councils with the aim of promoting sound fiscal policies. But unlike central banks, fiscal councils have no policy levers to pull – they can bark but never bite. This column explores the theoretical foundations and practical implications of fiscal councils. The evidence suggests that independent councils can mitigate the deficit bias. They do this by subjecting the ‘fiscal alchemy’ to systematic, rigorous, and highly publicised scrutiny.
Barry Eichengreen, Poonam Gupta, 13 May 2016
The recent reversal of capital flows to emerging markets has pointed to the continuing relevance of the sudden stop problem. This column analyses the sudden stops in capital flows to emerging markets since 1991. It shows that the frequency and duration of sudden stops have remained largely unchanged, but that global factors have become more important in their incidence. Stronger macroeconomic and financial frameworks have allowed policymakers to respond more flexibly, but these more flexible responses have not guaranteed insulation or significantly mitigated the impact.
Jason Furman, Jay Shambaugh, 29 April 2016
In terms of GDP and unemployment, the US’s recovery from the crisis was relatively rapid. This was in large part due to forceful fiscal policy conducted by the Obama Administration. This column surveys the lessons for other economies, which have seen less-convincing recoveries. Around the world, increased spending and tax cuts over the last eight years have had positive effects. Continuing recovery will require concerted action in these directions.
Francesco D'Acunto, Daniel Hoang, Michael Weber, 27 April 2016
The Eurozone faces zero inflation paired with low economic growth. With monetary policy hobbled by the zero lower bound, it is time to think more broadly. This column discusses the theoretical and empirical evidence on ‘unconventional fiscal policy’. Such policies aim to increase growth and inflation in a budget-neutral fashion, while keeping the tax burden on households constant.
Willem Pieter De Groen, Daniel Gros, Diego Valiante, 15 April 2016
The ECB recently announced a new monetary operation – targeted longer-term refinancing operations, or TLTRO II – that essentially subsidises bank loans to the real economy. This column argues that this ‘cash for loans’ scheme, which might cost up to €24 billion, is unlikely to affect the real economy greatly. This is because banks can easily window dress their loans to qualify. TLTRO II also tests the limits of the ECB’s mandate by stepping into the fiscal policy space.
Sagiri agiri Kitao, 15 April 2016
Most countries with a generous pay-as-you-go social security system and ageing demographics will need to implement significant welfare reform, such as a major cut in benefits or a significant increase in distortionary taxation. Individuals’ uncertainty about when such a policy change will occur will cause precautionary saving and changes in factor prices, affecting aggregate welfare. This column uses evidence from Japan to show that delaying welfare reform will benefit the elderly, at a long-lasting cost to the young.
Carlos Vegh, Guillermo Vuletin, 24 February 2016
By the end of 2013, growth in Latin America had begun to decelerate. The ensuing policy responses to this have differed across countries. This column uses data from the past 40 years to analyse policy responses to economic distress in the region. On average, countercyclical policy responses to crises have been more common over the last 15 years than previously. Latin America thus appears to have graduated in terms of monetary and fiscal responses to crises. But there is still a great deal of heterogeneity across countries in the region, and they must continue to build sound and credible fiscal and monetary institutions.
Tommaso Monacelli, 12 February 2016
The boom-bust cycle in the Eurozone between 2000 and 2008 is essentially a story of cyclical asymmetries between the Core and the Periphery. While stressing the importance of addressing these asymmetries – especially via fiscal policy – the ECB has failed to take them explicitly into account in its own policy-setting. This essay argues that these asymmetries may persist precisely because they are not a central target of stabilisation policy – both fiscal and monetary.
Giancarlo Corsetti, Matthew Higgins, Paolo Pesenti, 12 February 2016
James Tobin’s classic ‘funnel’ theory questioned how best to calibrate the overall stance of macroeconomic policy in an economic region. This column revisits key questions that emerged out of the EZ crisis through the lens of Tobin’s theory. A key insight is that monetary policy cannot achieve stabilisation objectives without stronger mechanisms for fiscal burden-sharing and risk-pooling. Although short-run solutions are possible under the existing circumstances, long-run stability will require a policy mix that convincingly deals with the issue of fiscal risk-sharing.
Barry Eichengreen, Charles Wyplosz, 14 March 2016
The Eurozone crisis has shown that monetary union entails more than just sharing monetary policies. This column, first published on 12 February 2016, identifies four minimal conditions for solidifying the monetary union. In the case of fiscal policy, this means a decentralised solution. In the case of financial supervision and monetary policy, centralisation is unambiguously the appropriate response. In the case of a fourth condition, debt restructuring, either approach is possible, but the authors prefer a solution that involves centrally restructuring debts while allocating costs at national level.
M Ayhan Kose, Franziska Ohnsorge, Lei (Sandy) Ye, 07 January 2016
Emerging markets face their fifth consecutive year of slowing growth. This column examines the nature of the slowdown and appropriate policy responses. Repeated downgrades in long-term growth expectations suggest that the slowdown might not be simply a pause, but the beginning of an era of weak growth for emerging markets. The countries concerned urgently need to put in place policies to address their cyclical and structural challenges and promote growth.
Angus Armstrong, Francesco Caselli, Jagjit Chadha, Wouter den Haan, 23 December 2015
In November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled plans for debt reduction in the UK over the rest of this Parliament. This column compiles the views of several experts on these plans, taken from a Centre for Macroeconomics survey. A significant number of respondents felt that the plans for debt reduction were not appropriate. There were also widespread doubts that the Chancellor’s Charter for Budgetary Responsibility would help underpin the credibility of fiscal policy.
Marco Buti, Vitor Gaspar, 10 December 2015
Designing fiscal policy for today’s complex and uncertain economic climate is a problem that perplexes governments worldwide. This column proposes a solution – a new fiscal architecture with strengthened but budget-neutral automatic stabilisers. It won’t be easy, but overcoming predominantly political challenges will help foster steady and enduring growth.
Ángel Ubide, 09 December 2015
The diversity of European economic cycles, economic structures, and political dynamics is a strength of the Eurozone. However, sustainable arrangements are required to distribute risks and ensure that all countries can use fiscal policy to cushion economic downturns. This column proposes the creation of a system of stability bonds for the Eurozone. These could be structured to minimise moral hazard, improve governance, and ensure that fiscal policy can support growth during the next recession.
Alessandro Cugnasca, Philipp Rother, 05 December 2015
The size of fiscal multipliers has been the subject of major public policy debates in the past few years. This column provides evidence that, on average, the size of the fiscal multiplier is in line with assumptions made by policymakers at the start of the crisis. The effects of fiscal consolidation, however, vary significantly depending on the state of the economy and the composition of the fiscal adjustment.
Lawrence Summers, Antonio Fatás, 25 October 2015
The global financial crisis has permanently lowered the path of GDP in all advanced economies. At the same time, and in response to rising government debt levels, many of these countries have been engaging in fiscal consolidations that have had a negative impact on growth rates. We empirically explore the connections between these two facts by extending to longer horizons the methodology of Blanchard and Leigh (2013) regarding fiscal policy multipliers. Using data seven years after the beginning of the crisis as well as estimates on potential output our analysis suggests that attempts to reduce debt via fiscal consolidations have very likely resulted in a higher debt to GDP ratio through their negative impact on output. Our results provide support for the possibility of self-defeating fiscal consolidations in depressed economies as developed by DeLong and Summers (2012).
Bernardin Akitoby, Sanjeev Gupta, Abdelhak Senhadji, 18 July 2015
There has been a heated debate about the effectiveness of fiscal policy as a countercyclical tool but little evidence on how it can support growth. This column shows that fiscal policy can lift medium- and long-term growth in both advanced and developing economies. But all fiscal reforms are not equal in their growth dividend. Successful reforms are often part of a broader reform package and can balance the growth-equity trade-off.
Joan Paredes, Javier Pérez, Gabriel Pérez-Quirós, 12 July 2015
Uncertainty about fiscal policies can be damaging for economic performance, as it affects decisions about consumption, investment, and savings. This column argues that it is possible to reduce such uncertainty. Even if governments’ fiscal plans turn out to be (purposely) wrong ex post, they can convey useful information. It is just a matter of using the appropriate learning device whereby government promises are confronted every quarter with reality (i.e. what the government is actually doing).
Anusha Chari, Peter Blair Henry, 06 March 2015
In the wake of the Great Recession, a contentious debate has erupted over whether austerity is helpful or harmful for economic growth. This column compares the experiences of the East Asian countries – whose leaders responded to the East Asian financial crisis with expansionary fiscal policy – with those of the European periphery countries during the Great Recession. The authors argue that it was a mistake for the European periphery countries to pivot from fiscal expansion to consolidation before their economies had recovered.