Fiscal sustainability challenges in the new normal of low oil prices: Empirical evidence from GCC countries

El Mahmah, Assil and Kandil, Magda,(2019), Fiscal sustainability challenges in the new normal of low oil prices: Empirical evidence from GCC countries. , International Journal of Development Issues, UNSPECIFIED

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Purpose – Given the persistence of low oil prices and the continued shrinking of government revenues, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries continue to adapt to the new normal of the oil price environment, with a focus on pressing ahead with subsidies’ reforms and measures to increase non-oil revenues, as well as accelerating debt issuance, which raise concerns about fiscal sustainability and the implications on macroeconomic stability. Design/methodology/approach – The purpose of this paper is to examine the sustainability of fiscal policy in GCC by exploring governments’reaction to rising public debt accumulation via the estimation of a fiscal reaction function to higher debt. Subsequently, the paper compares the obtained results with other similar and non-similar groups, in terms of economic structures and oil dependency, to understand how some macroeconomic factors affect differently the fiscal policy responses, in a context of oil price shocks and high price volatility. Findings – The results show that the coefficient of the lagged debt stock was significant and positive, which means that GCC are increasing the pace of reforms and the fiscal primary balance as they issue more debt to ensure a sustainable fiscal policy. The evidence is consistent with the theory that higher levels of debt warrant greater fiscal effort, but at lower debt levels, countries still have the space to increase spending without jeopardizing debt sustainability as long as they remain committed to fiscal reforms to increase the primary balance. The evidence supports the notion that the region’s public finances have improved in response to recent fiscal adjustments. However, national experiences differ considerably, especially given variation in the fiscal breakeven prices against the new normal of low oil prices. Moreover, the findings reveal that various measures of economic performance, as captured by economic growth, openness and the oil price, were also found to be important factors in explaining fiscal performance. The combined effects of low oil prices and high degree of openness warrant further efforts to reform the budget to increase the primary balance while safeguarding priority spending tomobilize non-energy growth and ensure debt sustainability in GCC. Originality/value – Given recent experiences and the “low for long” oil price, policy priorities and reforms are necessary in oil-dependent economies, including GCC, to ensure macroeconomic sustainability. Sustaining the momentum of non-energy growth would reduce continued dependency of GCC economies on oil revenues and fiscal spending in the medium-term, creating a bigger scope for private sector participation in economic activity and increasing the prospects of further diversification away from long dependency on oil price volatility and their adverse implications on the fiscal budget and economic cycles.
Keywords : Sustainability, Debt, Panel data models, Fiscal policy, UNSPECIFIED
Journal or Publication Title: International Journal of Development Issues
Volume: 18
Number: 1
Item Type: Article
Subjects: Ekonomi Pembangunan
Depositing User: Mohamad Sulamul Hadi
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2019 10:45
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2019 10:45

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