Fiscal Consolidation and Decentralisation : A Tale of Two Tiers

Darby, Julia and Muscatelli, V Anton and Roy, Graeme (2004) Fiscal Consolidation and Decentralisation : A Tale of Two Tiers. Discussion paper. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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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 sub-central 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.