M-RCBG Faculty Working Paper No. 2012-09
On Graduation from Fiscal Procyclicality
Jeffrey A. Frankel, Carlos A. Vegh, and Guillermo Vuletin
In the past, industrial countries have tended to pursue countercyclical or, at worst, acyclical fiscal policy. In sharp contrast, emerging and developing countries have followed procyclical fiscal policy, thus exacerbating the underlying business cycle. We show that, over the last decade, about a third of the developing world has been able to escape the procyclicality trap and actually become countercyclical. In line with existing literature, we confirm the role of increased financial integration and lower output volatility in reducing overall procyclicality. In this paper, however, we focus on the role played by the quality of institutions. Indeed, the quality of institutions seems to be a key determinant of a country’s ability to graduate. We provide a formal analysis, controlling for the endogeneity of institutions and other determinants of fiscal procyclicality, that strongly suggests that there is a causal link running from stronger institutions to less procyclical or more countercyclical fiscal policy.