Permanent budget surpluses as a fiscal regime
Title: Permanent budget surpluses as a fiscal regime
Author: HAFFERT, Lukas
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2015/10
This paper challenges the focus on budget deficits that permeates the literature on fiscal policy. It analyzes countries running budget surpluses and asks why some of them preserved these surpluses while others did not. Whereas several OECD members recorded surpluses for just a few years, balanced budgets became the norm in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, and Sweden in the late 1990s. The paper compares the fiscal policy choices of both types of countries from a historical-institutionalist perspective. It argues that a path-dependent shift in the balance of power of fiscal policy interests explains why surpluses persisted in one group of countries but not in the other. This reconfiguration of interests was triggered by a deep fiscal crisis and an ensuing expenditure-led consolidation. It can be interpreted as creating a new “surplus regime”, in which fiscal policy became structured around the goals of balancing the budget and cutting taxes.
Subject: Fiscal policy; Budget surpluses; Path dependency; Austerity; Public debt
Type of Access: openAccess