State Capacity and the Soft Budget Constraint: Fiscal Federalism, Indian Style
34 Pages Posted: 20 May 2020
Date Written: May 17, 2020
In this paper, we explore the effects of India’s federal structure on state-level fiscal responsibility. Drawing from a dataset that covers the period from 1991 to 2019, we argue that a low marginal retention rate, a high level of transfer dependence and a high level of borrowing dependence (soft budget constraints) from the central government facilitates lower levels of fiscal responsibility in intergovernmental relations. Our hypothesis is tested using random effects, and fixed effects panel estimations of regressions on fiscal responsibility outcomes across Indian states. We also account for the effects of the world’s largest employment program, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), on subnational fiscal responsibility. We find that the fulfillment of rural public employment measures is conducive to lower levels of fiscal responsibility. Moreover, we argue for the persistence of soft budget constraints as a key structural feature of Indian federalism.
Keywords: fiscal federalism, soft budget constraint, social policy, India
JEL Classification: O53, O57, P16, P51
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