Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Automatic destabalization

From the Economist:
The restructuring of Dubai Inc has begun. Nakheel shed 15% of its staff in December and has continued to pare its numbers since. Sheikh Muhammad’s own Dubai Holding has also cut staff. “Last year, people would talk about how many houses they owned,” says one Dubai veteran. “Now, they talk about how many friends have lost their jobs.” Other economies benefit from automatic fiscal stabilisers as the unemployed stop paying taxes and start spending welfare benefits. The UAE suffers from an automatic destabiliser: 30 days after a foreigner loses his job, he loses his right to stay. Once they leave, Dubai’s ex-expats will spend nothing in the economy they leave behind.
It is true that the West, particularly the US post 1930s, has automatic stabilizers that increase the size of the Federal deficit when aggregate demand falls. In this way, unemployment triggers fiscal expansion, which funds net private sector savings and stabilizes aggregate demand. It could be done through simply cutting taxes, but Govts prefer to do it the hard way (exhibit A: the Obama administration).

Dubai runs net surpluses, is a currency user, and has Abu Dhabi who, as an oil exporter, can sort of print dollars but sort of not. I need to think through whether reducing population is the right automatic stabilizer for that kind of economy.

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