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Fiscal rules and the intergenerational welfare effects of public investment

Pedro Bom ()

Economic Modelling, 2019, vol. 81, issue C, 455-470

Abstract: A common argument against balanced-budget fiscal rules has it that the costs of durable public capital fall entirely on current generations while its benefits also accrue to future generations. This paper proposes an additional argument whereby balanced-budget rules imply uneven welfare effects of public investment across generations. Using an overlapping generations model of a small open economy, I show that, when subject to a balanced-budget constraint, public investment causes a negative financial wealth effect on current generations. Numerical simulations of the model show that, in terms of welfare, this negative financial wealth effect more than offsets the productivity gains of higher public investment spending, leaving current generations worse-off. A golden rule exempting net public investment from the balanced-budget requirement overturns this effect and allows for welfare gains to both current and future generations. Allowing for debt-financing may thus be necessary to ensure public support for efficient increases in public investment spending.

Keywords: Balanced-budget rule; Golden rule; Intergenerational welfare; Public investment; Public capital (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E62 F41 H54 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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