The Political Economy of Fiscal Transparency and Independent Fiscal Councils

Author/Editor:

Roel M. W. J. Beetsma ; Xavier Debrun ; Randolph Sloof

Publication Date:

September 1, 2017

Electronic Access:

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Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.

Summary:

The global surge in independent fiscal councils (IFCs) raises three related questions: How can IFCs improve the conduct of fiscal policy? Are they simultaneously desirable for voters and elected policymakers? And are they resilient to changes in political conditions? We build a model in which voters cannot observe the true competence of elected policymakers. IFCs’ role is to mitigate this imperfection. Equilibrium public debt is excessive because policymakers are “partisan” and “opportunistic.” If voters only care about policymakers’ competence, both the incumbent and the voters would be better off with an IFC as the debt bias would shrink. However, when other considerations eclipse competence and give the incumbent a strong electoral advantage or disadvantage, setting up an IFC may be counterproductive as the debt bias would increase. If the incumbent holds a moderate electoral advantage or disadvantage, voters would prefer an IFC, but an incumbent with a large advantage may prefer not to have an IFC. The main policy implications are that (i) establishing an IFC can only lower the debt bias if voters care sufficiently about policymakers’ competence; (ii) not all political environments are conducive to the emergence of IFCs; and (iii) IFCs are consequently vulnerable to shifts in political conditions.

Series:

Working Paper No. 17/195

English

Publication Date:

September 1, 2017

ISBN/ISSN:

9781484315552/1018-5941

Stock No:

WPIEA2017195

Price:

$18.00 (Academic Rate:$18.00)

Format:

Paper

Pages:

48

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