Strategies for Countries with Favourable Fiscal Positions
Posted: 1 Jun 2010
Date Written: December 17, 2008
The financial crisis and economic downturn are going to weigh on fiscal positions in OECD countries over the short to medium-term, both through the operation of automatic stabilisers and the enactment of discretionary fiscal stimulus packages. However, the strategic policy options facing OECD countries are mainly determined by the soundness of their underlying fiscal positions which vary substantially. This paper first describes how OECD economies are situated with respect to underlying fiscal balances and net government debt. A number of countries seem to enjoy favourable fiscal positions with underlying fiscal surpluses, low government debt or even positive net financial asset positions. When taking account, as far as possible, of implicit liabilities associated with ageing populations and resource-based revenues, fiscal positions still vary greatly across countries. The paper then examines the criteria involved in deciding whether government financial asset accumulation is in excess of needs and the use to which any excess government saving might be put, whether increasing public spending or reducing taxes. Finally, the determinants of the optimal size of the government balance sheet for any given desired net debt position are discussed.
Keywords: Fiscal sustainability, fiscal policy, budget surplus, underlying fiscal balance, government
JEL Classification: E62, H2, H5, H6, J11, Q33
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