Working Paper
Fiscal policy in times of fiscal stress

Or what to do when r > g

South Africa runs a primary fiscal deficit and the long-term interest rate on government borrowing, r, is greater than the long-term economic growth rate, g. Without intervention, debt will continue to rise until there is a disorderly fiscal stop. Reforms to raise growth have not materialized, leaving fiscal consolidation as the second-best solution to achieve fiscal sustainability.

We show that the least-cost policy is to impose a time-consistent fiscal policy rule with debt-to-GDP as the fiscal anchor and for the intermediate operational objective to be a pre-announced path for real government consumption spending rather than the current nominal expenditure ceiling. This optimal policy result obtains with and without explicit policy coordination between the fiscal and monetary authorities.