Harnessing Windfall Revenues: Optimal Policies for resrouce-ruch developing countries

Sep 2008 | 09

Authors: Anthony Venables, Rick Van der Ploeg


A windfall of natural resource revenue (or foreign aid) faces government with choices of how to manage public debt, investment, and the distribution of funds for consumption, particularly if the windfall is both anticipated and temporary. Standard policy advice follows the permanent income hypothesis in suggesting a sustained in increase in consumption supported by interest on accumulated foreign assets (a Sovereign Wealth Fund) once resource revenues are exhausted. However, this strategy is not optimal for capital-scarce developing economies. Incremental consumption should be skewed towards present generations, relative to those in the far future. Savings should be directed to accumulation of domestic private and public capital rather than foreign assets. Optimal policy depends on instruments available to government. We study cases where the government can make lump-sum transfers to consumers; where such transfers are impossible so optimal policy involves cutting distortionary taxation in order to raise investment and wages; and where Ricardian consumers can borrow against future revenues so government only has indirect control of consumption.

JEL Codes: E60, F34, F35, F43, H21, H63, O11, Q33

Keywords: natural resource, windfall public revenues, risk premium on foreign debt, public infrastructure, private investment, credit constraints, optimal fiscal policy, debt management, Sovereign Wealth Fund, asset holding subsidy, developing economies


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