The Cyclicality of Monetary and Fiscal Policy in South Africa since 1994

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 163

Stan du Plessis, Ben Smit, and Federico Sturzenegger
May 2008

A publication of the CID South Africa Growth Initiative


This paper uses an SVAR approach to discuss the cyclicality of fiscal and monetary policy in South Africa since 1994. There is substantial South African literature on this topic, but much disagreement remains. Though not undisputed, there is growing consensus that monetary policy has contributed to the remarkable stabilisation of the South African economy over this period. The evaluation of the role of fiscal policy in stabilisation has been less favourable and there is little evidence that a countercyclical fiscal stance was a priority over this period. This paper considers these issues in an empirical framework that addresses some of the shortcomings in the literature. Specifically, it constructs a structural model in contrast with the reduced form models typically used in the South African literature, incorporates the dynamic interaction between monetary and fiscal shocks on the demand side and supply shocks on the other, and avoids controversy over ‘neutral’ base years and the size of fiscal elasticities. The model confirms the consensus on monetary policy, finding it to have been largely countercyclical since 1994. On fiscal policy, this paper finds evidence of pro-cyclicality, especially in the more recent period, though the policy simulations suggest that the pro-cyclicality of fiscal policy has had little destabilising impact on real output.

Keywords: stabilisation policy, monetary policy, inflation targeting, fiscal policy, pro-cyclical policy

JEL subject codes: E320, E630