Fiscal policy, public debt and monetary policy in emerging market economies

BIS Papers No 67
October 2012

During the 1980s and 1990s, the vulnerability of EMEs was often exacerbated by high fiscal deficits, underdeveloped domestic bond markets, and large currency or maturity mismatches. In many cases, these weaknesses constrained fiscal and monetary policy choices, and responses were often procyclical. Since the beginning of 2000s, however, the policy setting has much improved. Fiscal deficits and public debt levels have declined, domestic financing has increased, and the share of foreign currency debt has fallen. What do these developments mean for monetary policy? Has the threat of fiscal dominance in EMEs lessened, just when it has grown in the advanced economies? Have EMEs been able to use fiscal and monetary policy in more countercyclical way than in the past?

These questions were the focus of the 17th Annual Meeting of Deputy Governors from major EMEs held at the BIS in Basel on 16-17 February 2012. The meeting addressed three issues: (i) the fiscal constraints on monetary policy; (ii) the impact of local currency bond markets on central bank policies; and (iii) the role of central banks in public debt management.  This BIS Paper volume brings together the papers prepared by the BIS staff for the meeting as well as the contributions of central banks.

One major finding was that improved fiscal positions have allowed many EMEs to use countercyclical fiscal and monetary policies to stabilise their economies during the recent global financial crisis. Anchoring medium term fiscal expectations was crucial, so was greater access to domestic financing enabled by the development of the local currency bond markets. Yet these reassuring conclusions came with a number of caveats. Although fiscal dominance has fallen, contingent liabilities and the costs of ageing populations pose serious medium- to long-term risks to many EMEs. And, while government debt levels have moderated, the volume of securities issued by central banks has expanded, reflecting large-scale interventions in the foreign exchange market. The implications of these balance sheet developments for price and financial stability require careful monitoring.

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Contributed papers