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Are Windfalls a Curse? A Non-Representative Agent Model of the Current Account and Fiscal Policy

Aaron Tornell and Philip Lane

No 4839, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: In several countries temporary terms of trade improvements have led to a deterioration of the current account. Furthermore, many of these countries failed to attain greater post-boom growth rates. The point we make is that the structure of the fiscal process is critical in determining outcomes. If fiscal control is unitary, then the consumption-smoothing effect is operative, and representative-agent models of the current account have predictive power. However, if control is divided among several fiscal claimants, a voracity effect appears which counteracts the consumption-smoothing effect, leading to a deterioration of the current account in response to a positive shock. We model the interaction among fiscal claimants as a dynamic game, and show that in equilibrium aggregate appropriation increases more than the windfall itself. This results in a deterioration of the current account. We also show that all the windfall is dissipated, with the country experiencing no increase in its growth rate. Lastly, we analyze the experiences of seven countries which have enjoyed large windfalls.

JEL-codes: E62 F32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1994-08
Note: IFM
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Published as Journal of International Economics, vol. 44, pp. 83-112, 1998,

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