Do Financial Markets Reward Government Spending Efficiency?

António Afonso (EconPol Europe; ISEG; REM/UECE), João Tovar Jalles (EconPol Europe; ISEG; REM/UECE; Economics for Policy and Centre for Globalization and Governance; IPAG Business School), Ana Venâncio (ISEG; ADVANCE/CSG)

To mitigate the economic impact of the corona crisis many governments have heavily engaged in counter-cyclical policies contributing to record high deficit and debt levels. Therefore, the more efficient use of public resources will be given special attention by financial markets’ participants. For a sample of 34 OECD countries over the period 2007-2018, this study finds that increased public spending efficiency is indeed rewarded by the three main rating agencies Standard & Poors, Moody´s and Fitch through higher sovereign credit rating notations. And these in turn naturally imply lower funding costs for governments in capital markets - an important policy implication to consider in times of Covid-induced scarce budgetary resources.


We link governments’ spending efficiency scores, to sovereign debt assessments made by financial markets´, more specifically by three rating agencies (Standard & Poors, Moody´s and Fitch). Public efficiency scores are computed via data envelopment analysis. Then, we rely notably on ordered response models to estimate the response of sovereign ratings to changes in efficiency scores. Covering 34 OECD countries over the period 2007-2018, we find that increased public spending efficiency is rewarded by financial markets via higher sovereign debt ratings. In addition, higher inflation and government indebtedness lead to sovereign rating downgrades, while higher foreign reserves contribute to rating upgrades.


António Afonso, João Tovar Jalles, Ana Venâncio, "Do Financial Markets Reward Government Spending Efficiency?", EconPol Working Paper 62, March 2021