The analytical and empirical appraisal of the Ricardian equivalence with reference to South Africa.
Newport-Gwilt, Victoria Joan.
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The Government of National Unity, on coming into power in April, 1994, has endorsed the reconstruction and development programme (RDP) and its broad agenda for the rapid removal of the problems and gross inequality evident in all aspects of the South African society. Many economists argue that the sustain ability of the RDP, will depend crucially on the maintenance of fiscal discipline and the progressive reduction of the overall fiscal deficit. As excessive fiscal deficits are often associated with higher inflation, higher real interest rates, balance of payments disequilibrium and lower economic growth, thereby putting the RDP at jeopardy. The view based on the Ricardian Equivalence approach however, takes the position that neither deficits nor the way they are financed, is as critical to economic policy and the future prosperity of an economy, as is generally believed. The Ricardian view consequently, argues that government need not necessarily embark on deficit reduction programmes as advocated by the so called traditional view. The study investigates the validity of the Ricardian view, both on the empirical and theoretical side, with special reference to the South African economy. The specific question that this study attempts to address is whether economic agents behave in a Ricardian manner in the South African economy. Our results (based on the replication of the Dalamagas (1994) study) could be very consequential for South African policy makers, as they suggest that the Ricardian Equivalence proposition is valid and therefore, government could on purely theoretical grounds shift its focus away from the debt situation, and concentrate on the policies aimed to correct the inequalities (in wealth, distribution of public goods, employment opportunities) created by the Apartheid era. Whether government should do so in reality however is debateable due to the other considerations that government need to take account of when implementing actual macroeconomic policy.