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Optimal size of government and economic growth in EU-27

Magazzino, Cosimo and Forte, Francesco (2010): Optimal size of government and economic growth in EU-27. Published in: C.R.E.I. Working Papers No. 04 (October 2010)


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Using time-series techniques and panels data, the paper analyses for the EU countries in the period 1970-2009 the existence and shape of the “BARS curve” (Barro, Armey, Rahn, and Scully), connecting the size of Government (measured by the share of public expenditure on GDP) to the rate of economic growth. Individual countries research has been conducted for 12 countries for whom enough time series were available, while panel analysis has been performed both for EU-27 and for subgroups, distinguished by their different socio-economic and monetary structures, and per capita GDP. BARS curves were generally found, and the shares of actual public expenditures generally exceed substantially those related to the maximization of GDP growth. However, great differences do emerge. For the 12 countries examined by time-series techniques, the difference between the actual level and the peak of the BARS curve ranges from 5.7 points for Germany and 18.1 points for Belgium. Panel data analysis for EU-27 shows a peak of the BARS curve at 37%, while the actual level is about 47%. While, panel data disaggregation shows a similar situation for the Western Continental Countries, with a smaller gap for Anglo-Saxon countries. For low per capita GDP countries the peak is higher than for the mature economies. So, further research may prove useful to show light on the disparities emerging in the empirical analysis of individual countries and of the panel sub-groups. However, the present research provides enough evidence that high GDP countries of EU have overcome the level of government size compatible with GDP growth rate maximization.

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