Rational expectations and the service of public debt: a recursive approach

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This paper uses dynamic programming to study the time consistency of optimal macroeconomic policy in economies with recurring public deficits. To this end, a general equilibrium recursive model introduced in Chang (1998) is extended to include govemment bonds and production. The original mode! presents a Sidrauski economy with money and transfers only, implying that the need for govemment fmancing through the inflation tax is minimal. The extended model introduces govemment expenditures and a deficit-financing scheme, analyzing the SargentWallace (1981) problem: recurring deficits may lead the govemment to default on part of its public debt through inflation. The methodology allows for the computation of the set of alI sustainable stabilization plans even when the govemment cannot pre-commit to an optimal inflation path. This is done through value function iterations, which can be done on a computeI. The parameters of the extended model are calibrated with Brazilian data, using as case study three Brazilian stabilization attempts: the Cruzado (1986), Collor (1990) and the Real (1994) plans. The calibration of the parameters of the extended model is straightforward, but its numerical solution proves unfeasible due to a dimensionality problem in the algorithm arising from limitations of available computer technology. However, a numerical solution using the original algorithm and some calibrated parameters is obtained. Results indicate that in the absence of govemment bonds or production only the Real Plan is sustainable in the long run. The numerical solution of the extended algorithm is left for future research.

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