Fiscal stabilisation in monetary unions

Stabilisation of common and asymmetric shocks

The stabilisation from market mechanisms and other existing instruments is bound, and this may be the economic rationale for fiscal stabilisation in a monetary union. Factor mobility really helps to smooth the result of large shocks (Asdrubali et al. 1996, Nikolov 2016), however the Great Recession showed that market stabilisation is normally inadequate (Berger et al. 2018) because markets have a tendency to behave pro-cyclically (Furceri and Zdzienicka 2015, Ferrari and Rogantini-Picco 2016).

When shocks affect the complete area, monetary policy can stabilise the economy. Problems arise when the interest is near to the effective lower bound, and there are decreasing returns from using further ‘unconventional’ tools (Blanchard et al. 2015).

National structural reforms and fiscal policies can address country-specific situations, but critically they are at the mercy of coordination problems and also have limits. Structural reforms have important short-term costs (Eggertsson et al. 2014), particularly if they are implemented during negative cyclical conditions (OECD 2015) so when monetary policy has already been constrained (Vogel 2014), posing a drag on aggregate demand (Duval and Furceri 2017). When you will find a large shock, market pressure can force national fiscal policies in a monetary union to behave pro-cyclically, limiting their capacity to stabilise.

It is therefore difficult to eliminate the role of a common stabilisation capacity in a monetary union. Similarly, the less a monetary union uses fiscal convenience of stabilisation of asymmetric shocks (cross-country risk-sharing), the more it requires structural reforms and prudent fiscal policies to improve the adjustment capacity and build fiscal buffers at the national level. This might create stronger deflationary strain on the whole area (OECD 2015, Duval and Furceri 2017) and stronger pressure on monetary policy to counteract that deflationary pressure (Corsetti et al. 2019), meaning it approaches its effective lower bound faster. Consequently you will find a greater dependence on a fiscal instrument to supply intertemporal stabilisation to aid monetary policy.

Alternatively, the less we use a common fiscal convenience of intertemporal stabilisation of common shocks, the more we must depend on monetary policy to counteract the normal shock. The closer monetary policy reaches its limits, the bigger the short-term costs of structural reforms and fiscal consolidation (Eggertsson et al. 2014, OECD 2015) and the low their effectiveness. You will find a greater the necessity for a fiscal instrument for cross-country stabilisation of asymmetric shocks.

Put simply, you will find a trade-off when we usually do not use a fiscal instrument for both of these objectives. The less we are prepared to use a common fiscal instrument for intertemporal stabilisation of common shocks, the more we must resort to it for cross-country stabilisation of asymmetric ones.

The impact of different items in the budget

EMU doesn’t have a common budget and the EU budget has not a lot of stabilisation impact (Pasimeni and Riso 2018). However the US includes a federal budget bigger than 20% of its GDP and will run deficits and borrow, collect taxes directly, and present direct transfers to states and people. We have evaluated the web stabilisation impact of the various items in the federal budget, on the revenue and expenditure side.

Overall, the united states federal budget, despite not being primarily made to achieve macroeconomic stabilisation, has the capacity to stabilise about 21% of macroeconomic shocks through its system of federal-to-state net transfers, including interstate stabilisation of asymmetric shocks (about 10%) and inter-temporal stabilisation of common shocks (about 11%). Different items have different stabilisation properties, independent of their size.

Figure 1 Intertemporal and interstate stabilisation through fiscal channels in america

Source: Nikolov and Pasimeni (2019).

The stabilisation impact of every item isn’t directly linked to its size, and therefore even small items can impact. Social Security benefits and federal personal taxes are the most reliable stabilisers against asymmetric shocks. Federal corporate taxes, although quite small, will be the most reliable intertemporal stabilisers for common shocks, and their small size implies also, they are probably the most efficient methods to provide stabilisation.

Corporate taxes are usually collected with longer lags than other taxes. That is consistent with the discovering that this item in the federal budget provides sensible stabilisation as time passes, but it isn’t particularly relevant for cross-country risk sharing.

The role of emergency unemployment insurance

THE UNITED STATES system of unemployment insurance is a joint federal-state programme that delivers direct support to eligible workers throughout a spell of unemployment. The support could be extended when there can be an upsurge in the unemployment rate above certain thresholds. All states will need to have an unemployment benefit scheme set up, but there are large differences in coverage, replacement rates, and generosity (Fischer 2017).

In principle the extended benefit programme is jointly funded at the state and the federal level, however in practice through the deepest recessions the federal share of the full total unemployment benefit cost increases enormously (O’Leary, 2013). This technique leads to permanent transfers. Beneath the extended benefit programme, if circumstances unemployment benefit scheme is underfunded and cannot afford full dental coverage plans, the state can borrow from the government.

To avoid moral hazard, this borrowing should be paid back in 2 yrs, otherwise the compulsory federal tax rate of 0.6% beneath the FUTA could be increased by 0.03%. But this incentive is incredibly weak, and states show a clear preference for maintaining a minimal tax rate in order that firms usually do not relocate to other states, and therefore unemployment benefits are underfunded (Fischer 2017).

In Nikolov and Pasimeni (2019) we gauge the stabilisation aftereffect of an random response to high unemployment through the Great Recession. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) programme operated between mid-2008 and end-2013. It extended federal advantages to individuals who were still eligible and had exhausted other options. This programme was fully funded by the federal budget and supported by its borrowing capacity.

We condition on the amount of EUC08 claims per state, as a proxy for state need. We find that the programme raised the fiscal smoothing of common shocks for the common state by approximately 6 percentage points. This could be interpreted as its marginal role for stabilisation. The federal system of unemployment insurance in america played a significant stabilisation role, specifically when enhanced by the discretionary programme of extended benefits.


In the EMU fiscal transfers are constrained by having less a political union, but we find that fiscal stabilisation through a common budget is pertinent in a monetary union. You will find a case for addressing both common and asymmetric shocks, however the instruments we choose could have different capacities to handle these stabilisation needs.

The look of the budget, specifically the total amount of revenue and expenditure, can maximise its stabilisation effect. The main element is to bridge the gap between higher mobility of capital and lower mobility of labour, by collecting revenues predicated on the income of the very most mobile factor (corporate tax) and providing support to the income of minimal mobile factor (social security).

A discretionary program of extended unemployment benefits, mainly funded by the federal level and supported by the borrowing capacity of the government, proves a powerful exemplory case of a timely and effective stabilisation instrument whenever we need a specific, contingent stabilisation function.

Authors’ note: The views expressed will be the authors and don’t necessarily reflect those of the European Commission.


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