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FISCAL CONSOLIDATION AND DECENTRALISATION: A TALE OF TWO TIERS

By Julia Darby, V. Anton Muscatelli and Graeme Roy

Abstract

This paper contributes to the established literature on fiscal consolidations (e.g. Alesina and Perotti, 1995, 1997, Alesina et al, 1998) by investigating the distinct behaviour of central and sub-central tiers of government during general government consolidation attempts. In the light of different degrees of decentralisation across OECD countries, and the different responsibilities devolved to sub-central tiers, we believe that this approach offers an illuminating insight into the analysis of fiscal consolidations and their success. We show that the involvement of the sub-central tiers of government is crucial to achieving cuts in expenditure, particularly in relation to the overall size of the government wage bill. In addition, central governments appear to exert a strong influence on the expenditure of subcentral tiers through their grant allocations, and control of these allocations appears to have a considerable impact upon the overall success of consolidation attempts. Finally we demonstrate that there is a skewness in cuts towards sub-central capital expenditure both when central governments cut grant allocations and when sub-central governments engage in lone consolidation attempts.

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