The implementation of the Maastricht criteria, establishment of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), creation of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) raised several challenges for the European Union (EU) countries. The main aim of this dissertation is to analyse the economic implications of those institutional changes. Chapter 2 provides an empirical answer to the question of whether Maastricht and SGP fiscal rules have affected growth in the EU countries. Results from the estimation of a growth equation show that growth of real GDP per capita in the EU was not negatively affected in the period after Maastricht. The main conclusion of this analysis is that the institutional changes that occurred in some European countries after 1992 were not harmful to growth.\ud \ud Chapter 3 tries to identify the main causes of excessive deficits in the EU. A conditional logit model is estimated over a panel of EU countries, where an excessive deficit is defined as a deficit higher than 3% of GDP. Results indicate that a weak fiscal stance, low economic growth, elections and majority left-wing governments are the main causes of excessive deficits. They also show that the institutional constraints imposed after Maastricht over the EU countries have succeeded in reducing the probability of excessive deficits, especially in small countries and in countries traditionally affected by large fiscal imbalances.\ud \ud A widespread idea in the business cycles literature is that the older is an expansion or contraction, the more likely it is to end. Chapter 4 provides further empirical support for this idea of positive duration dependence controlling simultaneously for the effects of other factors on the duration of expansions and contractions. This study employs for the first time a discrete-time duration model to analyse the impact of some variables on the likelihood of an expansion and contraction ending for a group of EU and non-EU countries. The evidence suggests that the duration of expansions and contractions is not only dependent on their actual age: the duration of expansions is also positively dependent on the behaviour of the OECD composite leading indicator and on private investment, and negatively affected by the price of oil and by the occurrence of a peak in the US business cycle; the duration of a contraction is negatively affected by its actual age and by the duration of the previous expansion.\ud \ud Finally, Chapter 5 raises the question of whether central banks’ monetary policy can be described by a linear Taylor rule or, instead, by a more complex nonlinear rule. This chapter also analyses whether those rules can be augmented with a financial conditions index containing information from some asset prices and financial variables. A forward-looking specification is employed in the estimation of the linear and nonlinear rules. A smooth transition model is used to estimate the nonlinear rule. The results indicate that the behaviour of the Federal Reserve of the United States can be described by a linear Taylor rule, whilst the behaviour of the ECB and Bank of England is best described by a nonlinear Taylor rule. In particular, these two central banks tend to react to inflation only when inflation is above or outside their targets. Moreover, the evidence also suggests that the recently created ECB is targeting financial conditions, contrary to the other two central banks
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