A new consensus on fiscal policy has emerged in advanced economies, that stimulus is both needed and feasible. At first blush, the scope for stimulus seems even greater in emerging markets, since their primary deficits are smaller and interest-growth differentials more favorable, suggesting that they can sustain much higher levels of debt. But more careful analysis suggests that this is not the case. The authors point out that what matters for debt sustainability are not current conditions but rather the range of possible future outcomes. And prospects for interest rates and growth are more uncertain in emerging markets, while primary balances are more difficult to adjust. As a result, debt limits are in fact tighter than advanced economies. Taking India as a case study, the authors argue that what is needed in the current situation is responsible, slow fiscal adjustment. More generally, one should be careful about importing wholesale the new fiscal consensus into emerging markets.
The data underlying this analysis are available here.