Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2019:6: The Swedish Fiscal Framework – The Most Successful One in the EU?

Fredrik N. G. Andersson () and Lars Jonung ()
Additional contact information
Fredrik N. G. Andersson: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden
Lars Jonung: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: This paper discusses the history and future of the Swedish fiscal framework. First, we claim that the fiscal framework has contributed to a sharp decline in the debt-to-GDP ratio, from one of the highest to one of the lowest in the European Union. Next, we focus on the future. Despite its success, we argue that the framework is unsustainable. Running large surpluses over the long run is not a steady-state solution. We recommend two changes to the framework. First, that the public pension system is excluded, and second that the Swedish fiscal authorities shift attention from maintaining a budget surplus of 1/3 percent of GDP over the business cycle to sustaining a stable debt-to-GDP ratio of 25 percent of GDP +/- 5 percentage points. A debt anchor at this level will provide sufficient insurance in case of a future major economic crisis judging from recent cross-country evidence. In addition, a debt anchor around 25 percent of GDP would contribute to political stability in time of crises. In a world, where populism and austerity fatigue are rampant, we stress the importance of a fiscal framework allowing successful consumption and tax smoothing in case of major negative shocks to the fiscal space. We conclude with a set of recommendations for the fiscal governance of the EU.

Keywords: Fiscal policy; fiscal framework; fiscal policy council; financial crisis; debt crisis; consumption smoothing; Sweden; EU

JEL-codes: E61; E62; E63; G02; H12; H30; N14; O52

37 pages, April 10, 2019

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