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U go Panizza and Andrea Presbitero January 2013 Alex Battistel Anthony Medina. PUBLIC DEBT AND ECONOMIC GROWTH IN ADVANCED ECONOMIES: A SURVEY. Motivation.
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PUBLIC DEBT AND ECONOMIC GROWTH IN ADVANCED ECONOMIES: A SURVEY
The global recession and the European public debt crisis have stimulated an intense debate about the effectiveness of ﬁscal policy and the consequences of rising government debt.
Thispapersurveys the recentliterature on the linksbetween public debt and economicgrowth in advancedeconomics.
Manypapershavefound a negative correlationbetweendebt and growth
but no one can make a strong case for a causalrelationshipgoing from debt to economicgrowth.
The presence of thresholds and more generally of a non-monotone relationshipbetweendebt and growthisNOT ROBUST to small changes in data coverage and empiricaltechniques
Reinhart and Rogoff’s (2010 a,2010 b)
2)30% < debt/GDP < 60%
3)60% < debt/GDP < 90%
4) debt/GDP > 90%
Theycalculatemedian and average GDP growth for eachgroup:
mediangrowth 1% lower
averagegrowth 4% lower
Souce: Minea and Parent (2012) «Is high public debtalwaysharmful to economicgrowth?»
Small difference and notstatisticallysignificant
Minea and Parent (2012)
They use a Panel SmoothThresholdRegressions model
Fiscal profligacy? Of course NOT:
There are complex non-linearities, whichmaynot be captured by modelsthat use a set of exogenousthresholds.
Ifthere are variablescorrelated with bothdebt and growth, the simplecorrelationsdiscussedabovemaysuffer from an omittedvariablebias.
The literaturehastried to addressthisissue by estimating alternative versions of thisdynamicgrowth model:
Cecchetti, Mohanty and Zampolli (2012) estimates the previous model with a 5-year overlappinggrowthepisodes
Results: 10% debt/GDP ↗ 18 basispoints GDP growth ↘
The resultisrobust to controlling for outliers and to specificationsthat include different set of controlsvariables
But: public debtvariableisnotstatisticallysignificantin regressionsthat do not include time of country fixedeffects
Evidencethatdebtisnegativelycorrelated with economicgrowth, but:
OLS estimator negativelybiased. Using laggeddebtdoesn’tresolve the endogeneityproblem.
Kumar and Woo (2010) experimentdifferentestimationstechniques.
Addressendogeneity with with the GMM estimator system
resultsconsistent with Cecchetti, Mohanti and Zampolli (2012)
Problem: GMM estimatorsweredeveloped for micro data
In fact: GMM coefficientslarger (in abs. Value) than the OLS.
Checherita-Westphal and Rother (2012)instrumentdebt/GDP ratio of country i at time t with the averagedebt/GDP ratio in the other 11 countriesat time t (sample of 12 countries).
non linear hump-shapedrelationshipbetweendebt and growth
Maxgrowthwhen90% < debt/GDP < 100%.
The simplest way to test for non-linearity consist of including a quadratic term of the debt in the growth regression.
Checherita-Westphal and Rother (2012) analyse a sample of 12 euro area countries, and find a relationship between public debt and economic growth that can be described like an inverted U.
They find a marginal negative effect only when the relationship is between 90 and 105 percent of GDP.
This approach, however, is sensitive to extreme values and a relationship like an inverted U can also be driven by a few observations.
Kumar and Woo (2010) analyze a sample of advanced and emerging economies using the following model:
where the main variables are the same of the equation (1), and
D30, D30-90 and D90 are 3 variables dummy and take value 1 when, respectively, debt is below 30, between 30 and 90, and above 90.
Their results show “evidence of non-linearity, with only high (above 90 per cent of GDP) levels of debt, where we have a signiﬁcant negative effect on growth”.
Even if, there is a problem:
the value of B2=B3 (-0,018), in the SGMM estimation, with the only difference that B2 is insignificant and B3 is marginal significant, and a simply t-test of B2=B3 can’t be rejected.
This can’t confirm the hypothesis of non-linearity of debt on the growth.
His results give us a negative correlation and statistically significant between debt and growth, but he doesn't find any threshold effect.
His results tell us that the negative correlation between public debt and economic growth decrease if debt-GDP ratio increase.
But in their paper, Cecchetti, Mohanty, e Zampolli (2012), find that the relationship between public debt and economic growth that maximizes the growth is 96%, and show that if “the debt-to-GDP ratio is above 96 percent, an increased by ten percentage points of the debt-to-GDP is correlated with a decrease of 14 basis points” (and the coefficient is statistically significant).
The results are in line with the presence of a threshold around 90%, even if the model is valid only if the errors are independent and identically distributed (iid).
In summary, as we have seen, the negative relation, the non-linear effect and an effect of a threshold at 90% between debt and growth are not statistically significant and not robust on all samples with different models.
Also, there are evidence in other papers that a negative effect on the growth is linked only with developing country with a low democracy Kourtellos,Stengos and Tan (2012).
This seems be in line with the hypothesis of the lack of a strong evidence of a causal effect, that goes from debt and arrives to the growth on the advanced economies.
Panizza and Presbitero (2012): “Public debt and economic growth: Is there a causal effect?Data from 16 country OECD over the period 1982-2008 to plot the aggregate and the country specific quadratic fits obtained by regression GROWTH t-(t-5) over DEBT t-5.
Researchers should focus on gross or net debt?
On the explicit or implicit debt?
Measures of public debt should include the expected value of liabilities of the government?
The public debt net is the difference between gross debt and financial assets of the government.
However, while Net debt could seems a better measure than gross debt, his estimation are not simply with several problems of calculate.
Some economists suggest that this is the right time to apply the lessons learned during the great depression and that countries should not shy away from expansionary ﬁscal policy.
Other economists argue that high levels of public debt have a negative effect on economic growth and that ﬁscal consolidation is necessary to calm the investitors.
However after analyze the literature, Panizza and Presbitero, conclude that there is the lack of strong case that goes from public debt and arrive to low growth.
Even, there is not evidence of a common effect threshold in advanced economies.
But "stating that there is no evidence that debt has an effect on economic growth is different from stating that there is evidence that debt has no effect on economic growth “
In Panizza and Presbitero(2012),they suggest that a fully solvent government with a high level of debt may decide to do a restrictive ﬁscal policies to reduce the probability of a change in investors’ sentiments.
So this policies can decrease the growth, and in this case high debt can reduce the growth but only because high debt led to a recessionary policies.
The future research should focus on the heterogeneity (like see in the fig.3) of the single debt of the country and on the reasons and how the debt is be spent.
The debt, rather than a bad thing, it is a tool and as such depends on how it is used. The task of governments is to try to use it in the best way possible, avoiding waste and corruption
In addition, for countries within the European Union, in recent years are asked to make sacrifices through austerity policies, forgetting the fact that the threshold of 3% and 60% are not taken by any mathematical formula but by compromise, mostly made 20 years ago, in a period of strong growth and in a world completely different from that of today.