04 Jan 2013
Do investors disproportionately shed assets of distant countries during global financial crises?
The global crisis of 2008-09 went hand in hand with sharp fluctuations in capital flows. To some extent, these fluctuations may have been attributable to uncertainty-averse investors indiscriminately selling assets about which they had poor information, including those in geographically distant locations. Using a gravity equation setup, this article shows that the impact of distance increases with investors’ uncertainty aversion. Consistent with a sudden increase in uncertainty, the negative impact of distance on foreign holdings increased during the global financial crisis of 2008-09. Host-country structural policies enhancing the quality of information available to foreign investors, such as strict disclosure requirements and prudential bank regulation, tended to mitigate withdrawals.
04 Jan 2013
Fiscal multipliers and prospects for consolidation
This article looks at various aspects of fiscal consolidation in 18 OECD economies. The prospects for fiscal consolidation depend upon the problems a country may face with its debt stock, the political will to deal with these problems and on the costs of consolidation. These costs are a function of the impacts of fiscal policy on the economy, which is the focus of this study. The analysis is based on a series of simulations using the National Institute Global Econometric Model, NiGEM. Fiscal multipliers differ across countries because the structure and behaviour of economies differ. They also differ within countries, depending on factors such as the fiscal instrument implemented, the policy response to fiscal innovations, and expectation formation by economic agents. The purpose of this study is to allow an assessment of the likely impact on the economy and on the fiscal position of consolidation programmes.We decompose the key factors that determine the size of the multiplier by changing them one at a time. Even under a specified set of assumptions, the outturn for the budget balance retains a high degree of uncertainty. We illustrate this uncertainty by calibrating probability bounds around projected debt profiles. This can allow an assessment of the probability of achieving specified fiscal targets, such as those set out in the European Union’s new Fiscal Compact.
04 Jan 2013
Avoiding debt traps
In this article we develop a simple and stylised analytical framework, which is both tractable and feasible to estimate, capturing several key dimensions of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. We use it to examine if and how a combination of fiscal consolidation, structural reform and financial backstops can help countries, notably the southern euro-area countries, to escape from the debt trap. Our analysis confirms that the loss of fiscal policy space in countries trapped in bad dynamics inevitably requires that fiscal action be directed towards consolidation despite some output loss in the short run. In particular, reducing debt levels breeds stronger growth and results in lower sovereign risk premia. We identify also a very important role for structural reform to help countries escape from bad dynamics. Last but not least, we find that financial backstops are helpful, but only to "buy time". This additional time must be used productively, for fiscal consolidation and structural reforms to bear fruit as well as to make progress with institutional reforms of the European monetary union.
04 Jan 2013
ICT investments and productivity
This study uses an econometric approach to estimate the contribution of three types of ICT investments (computer, software and communication) in 26 industries (the whole business sector) in 18 OECD countries over 1995-2007, based on the EU KLEMS Database. The estimated contribution of ICT investments to value added growth in the business sector varies from 1.0% a year in Australia to 0.4% a year in Japan. In one-third of the countries considered, the contribution of ICT investment was bigger or equal to the contribution of non-ICT investments. In most countries, computing equipment provided the largest contribution and accounted for over 50% of the overall ICT contribution. The only exceptions are Finland, where investments in communication equipment exceeded those in computing equipment, and Japan, where software was the most dynamic component of ICT investments. ICT producing industries account for no less than two-thirds of total factor productivity (TFP) growth in Germany, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, about 60% in the United States and just below 50% in France and the Netherlands. In Denmark, the Czech Republic and Italy, TFP increased in the ICT producing industries whereas it decreased for the total business sector.
JEL classification: O47, E23, E22.
Keywords: Growth accounting, ICT, GMM, EU KLEMS.
04 Jan 2013
The determinants of earnings inequality
Unconditional and conditional quantile regressions are used to explore the determinants of labour earnings at different parts of the distribution and, hence, the determinants of overall labour earnings inequality. The analysis combines several household surveys to provide comparable estimates for 32 countries. The empirical work suggests that, in general, a rise in the share of workers with an uppersecondary or post-secondary non-tertiary degree and a rise in the share of workers on permanent contracts are associated with a narrowing of the earnings distribution. By contrast, a shift in the sector composition of the economy is not found to have a large impact on overall earnings inequality. As for tertiary education, the impact remains ambiguous as there are several offsetting forces.
04 Jan 2013
The global economic and financial crisis exacerbated the need for fiscal consolidation in many OECD countries. Drawing lessons from past episodes of fiscal consolidation, this study investigates the economic environments, political settings and policy measures conducive to fiscal consolidation and debt stabilisation using probit, duration, truncated regression and bivariate Heckman selection methods. The empirical analysis builds on the earlier literature and extends it to include new aspects that may be of importance for consolidating governments. The empirical analysis confirms previous findings that the presence of fiscal rules – expenditure or budget balance rules – is associated with a greater probability of stabilising debt. Crucial in determining the causal link behind the association, the results also reveal an independent role for such rules over and above the impact of preferences for fiscal prudence. Also, while the analysis confirms that spending-driven adjustments visà- vis revenue-driven ones are more likely to stabilise debt, it also reveals that large consolidations need multiple instruments for consolidation to succeed. Sub-national governments, in particular state-level governments can contribute to the success of central government consolidation, if they co-operate. To ensure that state-level governments do co-operate, having the right regulatory framework with the extension of fiscal rules to sub-central government levels is important.
04 Jan 2013
Interest-rate-growth differentials and government debt dynamics
The differential between the interest rate paid to service government debt and the growth rate of the economy is a key concept in assessing fiscal sustanability. Among OECD economies,this differential was unusually low for much of the last decade compared with the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. This article investigates the reasons behind this profile using panel estimation on selected OECD economies as means of providing some guidance as to its future development. The results suggest that the fall is partly explained by lower inflation volatility associated with the adoption of monetary policy regimes credibly argeting low inflation,which might be expected to continue. However,the low differential is also partly explained by factors which are likely to be reversed in the future,including very low policy rates,the "global savings glut" and the effect which the European Monetary Union had in reducing long-term interest differentials in the pre-crisis period. The differential is also likely to rise in the future because the number of countries which have debt-to-GDP ratios above a threshold at which there appears to be an effect on sovereign risk premia has risen sharply. Moreover,debt is projected to increasingly rise above this threshold in most of these countries.
04 Jan 2013
Tackling income inequality
Taxes and transfers reduce inequality in disposable income relative to market income. The effect varies, however, across OECD countries. The redistributive impact of taxes and transfers depends on the size, mix and the progressivity of each component. Some countries with a relatively small tax and welfare system (e.g. Australia) achieve the same redistributive impact as countries characterised by much higher taxes and transfers (e.g. Germany) because they rely more on income taxes, which are more progressive than other taxes, and on means-tested cash transfers. This article provides an assessment of the redistributive effect of the main taxes and cash transfers, based on various OECD data sources, a set of policy indicators and a literature review. Using cluster analysis, it also identifies empirically four groups of countries with tax and transfer systems that share broadly similar features.