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Optimal emerging market fiscal policy when trend output growth is unobserved

  • Economics


This paper is concerned with how fiscal policy in emerging markets should respond to economic fluctuations. We model the behaviour of a fiscal authority in an emerging market country who can use external borrowing to smooth the effects of exogenous output shocks on domestic agents’ private consumption. We focus on the policy implications of the facts that (1) the GDP process in emerging markets is characterised by a relatively volatile trend growth rate, and (2) that policymakers cannot directly observe the output gap or the trend GDP growth rate. We have two key findings. First, we find that risk-averse policymakers who face EME-style output processes (ie processes dominated by shocks to the trend growth rate) should run tighter fiscal policies, with lower average debt-GDP ratios, than those in industrialised countries, who face different output processes. Second, our baseline parameterisation suggests that EME policymakers should run countercyclical fiscal policies. This result contrasts with other papers which have used optimising frameworks and the features of EME output processes to rationalise the observed procyclicality of EME fiscal policies or external balances. Simulations suggest that the welfare costs of naively running a fiscal policy that would be appropriate for an industrialised country are around 1% of certainty-equivalent consumption, but this result is sensitive to parameterisation. We find that a simple rule-of-thumb policy that stabilises the debt-GDP ratio in every period entails much smaller welfare losses.

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