The Fiscal Deficit and Its Impact on Economic Growth
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Publication date: 2011-10-31
GNPJE 2011;251(10):1-20
The article describes the mechanisms by which fiscal expansion and the resulting fiscal deficit influence long-term economic growth. Since the early 1930s, many economists have argued that fiscal expansion is capable of stimulating the economy at a time of recession. The authors do not address the issue of how effective fiscal expansion may prove to be in stimulating aggregate demand and, consequently, in relieving strong negative demand shocks. In their article, Ciżkowicz and Rzońca examine six channels of the fiscal deficit’s impact on economic growth based on an overview of research reports in this area. The analysis reveals that the fiscal deficit may inhibit economic growth through each of these channels, Ciżkowicz and Rzońca say. First, a higher deficit today means higher taxes in the future. Second, an increase in the deficit may worsen the tax structure because it deepens income inequality between the rich and poor, which in turn provides an excuse for the authorities to raise taxes on income or capital, thus discouraging people from working, improving their skills, saving and innovating. Third, the deficit adds to the public debt, while crowding out spending on infrastructure, scientific research, and education. It also makes it easier to channel public funds to areas that do not generate benefits for society as a whole. Fourth, it absorbs private savings that could be used to finance corporate investment. Moreover, it adds to the uncertainty about future tax burdens and the stability of the economy, which is not conducive to investment. Fifth, it causes inflows and outflows of foreign portfolio capital, thus leading to fluctuations in the exchange rate and hindering international trade and, in effect, foreign technology transfers. Sixth, a persistent deficit leads to a crisis with time. A specific level of fiscal deficit does not have the same consequences everywhere, according to Ciżkowicz and Rzońca. Its negative impact on economic growth is especially evident in countries with a high capital-to-income ratio, low domestic savings rate, significant barriers for businesses trying to adapt their savings to changes in the deficit, excessive public expenditure, high public debt, low income per capita, poor protection of creditors’ rights, high vulnerability to shocks, a strong dependence on the inflow of savings from abroad, a high proportion of debt denominated in foreign currencies and nearing maturity, poor credit history, and slow GDP growth.
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