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Mr. Jonathan David Ostry, Mr. Atish R. Ghosh, and Mr. Raphael A Espinoza
What considerations should guide public debt policy going forward? Should debt be reduced to achieve normative anchors (such as 60 percent of GDP), should it be increased further to finance a big public investment push, or should the existing debt be serviced forever? We argue that, for countries with ample fiscal space (little risk of encountering a fiscal crisis), raising distortive taxes merely to bring the debt down is a treatment cure that is worse than the disease. High public debt of course is costly, but it is a sunk cost only made worse by efforts to pay down the debt through distortionary taxation. Living with the debt is the welfare-maximizing policy. In decisions vis-à-vis the big push for public investment, golden-rule considerations remain salient, with due account taken of the additional servicing costs (and associated distortive taxation) from the resulting buildup of public debt.
Ms. Maria A Albino, Ms. Svetlana Cerovic, Mr. Francesco Grigoli, Mr. Juan C Flores, Mr. Javier Kapsoli, Mr. Haonan Qu, Mr. Yahia Said, Mr. Bahrom Shukurov, Mr. Martin Sommer, and Mr. SeokHyun Yoon
Over the past decade, rising oil prices have translated into high levels of public investment in most MENA and CCA oil exporters. This has prompted questions about the efficiency of public investment in generating growth and closing infrastructure gaps, as well as concerns about fiscal vulnerabilities. When public investment is inefficient, higher levels of spending may simply lead to larger budget deficits, without sufficiency increasing the quantity or quality of public infrastructure in support of economic growth. This paper examines the efficiency of public investment in the MENA and CCA oil exporters using several techniques, including a novel application of the efficiency frontier analysis, estimates of unit investment costs, and assessments of public investment processes. The analysis confirms that these oil exporters have substantial room to improve public investment efficiency. Reforms in the public financial and investment management systems are needed to achieve this objective.