Finanz und Wirtschaft, June 5, 2021. PDF.
- The debt brake addresses some political economy frictions, but not others.
- Focusing too narrowly on explicit government debt it provides incentives to accumulate implicit debt, sell assets, or engage in creative accounting.
- The political pressure to raise SNB profit disbursements is a symptom of these incentives.
ifo Schnelldienst 4/2021, April 14, 2021. PDF.
Was Schuldengrenzen aus politökonomischer Sicht besonders attraktiv erscheinen lässt – ihre vermeintliche Einfachheit und Klarheit – birgt also auch Risiken. Es führt dazu, dass Politiker und ihre Wähler die Solidität der Staatsfinanzen über Gebühr an expliziten Bruttoschulden messen. Was aber zählt, wenn es um unerwünschte Umverteilung zulasten künftiger Generationen geht, ist staatliches Nettovermögen in einer umfassenden Gesamtschau.
Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics 149(2), June 2013, with Christoph Schaltegger. PDF.
In response to the rapid growth of public indebtedness during the 1990s, Switzerland enacted a constitutional budget restriction in 2003: the Swiss Debt Brake. Aimed at balancing the federal budget over the cycle the fiscal rule appears to have left its mark. At the debt brake’s tenth anniversary, Switzerland’s fiscal position has improved considerably. Several other countries have also implemented fiscal rules, but with mixed success. What lessons are there to be learned from these experiences?
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Swiss “Debt Brake,” the Study Center Gerzensee organized a conference on fiscal institutions, joint with the Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics, the Federal Finance Administration and the Universities of Lucerne and St. Gallen. The program can be viewed here (PDF).
A few tidbits: Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (President of the Swiss Confederation) emphasized the importance of “rigor and flexibility” as well as democratic legitimacy for the success of the Swiss debt brake rule.
Against the background of his experience at the Congressional Budget Office, Barry Anderson (National Governors Association) stressed the importance of the personality of the head of an independent fiscal institution: What is needed, in his view, is a low key technician who avoids the limelight.
Guido Tabellini (Bocconi University) argued that a successful budgetary framework needs to be consistent with the political system. Rules on the local level can be stricter and simpler because of transfers on the national level and national enforcement possibilities. Enforcement requires public support and thus, understanding by voters.
Similarly, Joakim Sonnegård (Swedish Fiscal Policy Council) argued in favor of self-enforcing mechanisms and institutionalized memory of bad times.
Conference papers published in the Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (2013 II; summary).