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Helicopter money and debt-financed fiscal stimulus: one and the same thing ?

M. Kasongo Kashama
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M. Kasongo Kashama: National Bank of Belgium

Economic Review, 2016, issue iii, 31-40

Abstract: The article sheds light on helicopter money’s effectiveness in stimulating activity and bringing inflation back to target, in particular compared to the expected effect of a conventional debt-financed fiscal stimulus, while also drawing attention to the risks and limitations of such a policy option. It does not seek to either examine in detail the possible modalities for implementing such a policy or to broach the related legal aspects, and starts by providing an overview of what mechanisms proponents of this policy typically put forward to explain its effectiveness after which it resorts to an integrated analysis of the central bank and government balance sheet to investigate these claims in more detail. From that analysis, it appears that helicopter money very much looks like financing public expenditure via the issuance of shortterm government debt. The article then goes on to explain how helicopter money might nevertheless be more effective than conventional debt-financed fiscal expansions in a low-rate and low-growth environment. A key conclusion seems to be that allowing inflation to rise is the main, if not only, power that central banks have to generate resources. A final section also briefly discusses a major possible complication of this policy option, which is the danger, even if it is remote, of creating a spiral of hyperinflation. In this context, the article also emphasises the need for sufficient initial central bank equity, strong coordination between the central bank and the government, as well as appropriate communication for helicopter money to be effective.

Keywords: helicopter money; debt-financed fiscal policy; base money; central bank reserves; government debt; central bank capital; hyperinflation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E52 E58 E62 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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