Fiscal and Monetary Policy: The Pillars of a Nation’s Macroeconomic Foundation

by Vibrant Publishers

Fiscal and monetary policies are macroeconomic tools in the hands of the government and central bank of a country to exercise control of the economy. Fiscal and monetary policies are formulated for controlling inflation, creating employment and increasing the growth prospects of an economy.  Fiscal policy is mainly concerned with government revenue and expenditure, and monetary policy deals with the circulation of money. While government departments usually have direct involvement in the formation of fiscal policy, monetary policy is formulated by the central bank of the country. Taxes on various goods are determined by the fiscal policy. Monetary policy determines the rate of interest charged by the banks.


What is fiscal policy?

Fiscal policy deals with the revenue collection and expenditure by the government. A country's government plans how it will generate revenue for running the country. Taxes are the major source of government revenue. However, higher tax does not necessarily mean higher revenue. When people need to pay higher taxes, their disposable income reduces. This may lead to reduced consumption and savings. Reduction in consumption may affect government tax collection. A lower demand situation faced by the industry may also reduce the taxes paid by the corporates. The government needs to maintain a balanced approach in levying taxes on various goods and services sold in the economy.

Taxes can be of two types; direct and indirect. Direct tax is based on the income of the people. The higher the income of an individual or the profit of a company, the more the taxes. Indirect taxes are taxes levied by the government on various goods and services sold in the country. As the taxes are collected not directly but through sales of goods, hence they are termed indirect taxes. The government determines tax rates.

Fiscal policy also determines the expenditure of the government. The government needs to spend money on the salary of government employees, for the maintenance of government properties, roads etc. At the same time, the government can spend money on building infrastructure and productive capacity in the country. The latter may help more in achieving growth and developing the economy.


Fiscal policy, growth and development

Economic growth can be achieved by increasing production, increased demand and consumption. Government expenditure often creates new jobs, new infrastructure and develops the economy. When government expenditure creates new jobs, people get more money to spend. This expands the economy and brings prosperity. Keynesian theory of macroeconomics suggests that even deficit financing can help an economy: when the government spends money beyond its means that can lead to more employment and the development of infrastructure, bringing an economy out of recession.

Tax cut allows people to have more money in hand and consumption increases. An increase in consumption can make the factories expand their capacity and produce more. This may help in generating more investments.  In the case of tax concession to businesses, there are more investments and expansion of the businesses. Additional taxes usually contract the economy by reducing the demand for goods.


Fiscal policy and inequality

Direct taxes are often called progressive and indirect taxes as regressive. The former taxes people as per their level of income. However, indirect taxes like value-added tax are levied equally on the rich and poor. Government has the opportunity of taxing the rich more and redistributing the money to the poor. The expenditure on creating universal health care or education system may help in creating opportunities for all sections of people in the economy and eventually reduce inequality. Government can also provide a universal minimum income to all citizens.


What is monetary policy?

Monetary policy is the macroeconomic policy that deals with the circulation of money in an economy. Monetary policy determines the bank's interest rate. If the interest rate is high, people save more and reduce consumption. This reduces the money supply in the economy. Increased interest rates also make loans expensive and people do not prefer taking loans for buying consumer goods like cars or houses. Monetary policy also influences the currency exchange rate. When the interest rate in a country increases, foreign money in the economy increases, as investors prefer to earn higher interest. If the central banks stock more foreign currency, local currency may depreciate. When the central banks sell foreign currency in the market, it improves the value of the local currency.


Monetary policy and inflation

Monetary policy is often used to stabilize prices and reduce inflation. Due to increases in interest rates, home loans, car loans, etc. become expensive. Consumers spend less and save more reducing the money supply in the economy. This enables checking the inflation. Inflation occurs when more money chases few goods (head to How Does Economics Explain Inflation? for more). Now as the money supply is cut down, inflation eases. However, an increase in interest rates may deter investors from taking fresh loans for investing in the economy. Reduction in the investment may reduce production and employment over a period of time which may create a situation where again inflationary situation arises due to a reduction in the supply of goods. Monetary policy can control inflation when it is due to excess money supply. However, it cannot solve the supply-side constraints.


Monetary policy and growth

A monetary policy that wants the economy to be growth-driven works towards a low-interest rate regime. Lowering interest rates enable businesses to go for fresh investments, expand productive capacity and grow the economy. Lower interest rate encourages consumers to buy new cars, new homes and other consumer goods. These increase the demand in the economy. Higher demand and supply levels expand the economy. Economic growth can be achieved with monetary policy. However, increasing activities and increase in income may also have an inflationary effect on the economy.


Economic policies and influence of the state

State economic policies try to ensure stability in the economy. It tries to reduce volatility. Volatility affects business as well as negatively impacts day to day life of the people. The state has monetary and fiscal policy tools to influence the economy. The effective implementation of monetary policy can cut inflation. It can bring in growth. Fiscal policies can expand the priority sectors of the government. It can also influence the consumption of certain products by a tax cut. Fiscal policy can create employment and bring prosperity to the economy.

State influence on the economic front is exercised through fiscal and monetary policy measures. It is imperative that these policies are balanced to reduce uncertainty and volatility in the macroeconomic environment.

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