21 May 2013
Illuminating budgetary risks
Wouter Schilperoort, Peter Wierts
The increased vulnerability of government finances in many countries underlines the importance of public risk management. We apply a specific risk management tool – stress testing – to public finances. After presenting a general framework for stress testing government finances, we illustrate its application for the case of the Netherlands. Our analysis indicates that high levels of contingent liabilities call for sufficient shock absorption capacity in public finances.
JEL classification: E62, H63
Keywords: Fiscal policy, public debt, stress test, risk management, budgetary sensitivity, implicit and explicit guarantees, Netherlands
29 Apr 2013
Buy back PPPs
Joaquim Miranda Sarmento, Ricardo Ferreira Reis
As Portugal is facing strong fiscal pressure, government spending on public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the road sector has become a main budgetary constraint. In this article, we show how the financial crisis has created a unique arbitrage opportunity that provides a solution to this problem. Since the private sector is in urgent need of liquidity, we suggest that the Portuguese government should use some of the bailout funds, borrowed at lower interest rates, to buy back the roads concessions, discounting future payments at the high interest rates currently charged to Portugal. For the roads already in operation, the purchase of the assets would significantly reduce future public payments and would also release money into banks and the economy. For the roads currently under construction, we propose that the government buys only the equity of these companies. That would also reduce future payments, and allow for the postponement or even cancelation of some of these projects, while granting private companies an exit from projects that they are no longer able to finance. This operation would save around half of PPP payments over the next 20 years.
29 Apr 2013
Lessons from the crisis
The Great Recession has been an unplanned but critical stress test of contemporary fiscal policy and financial management. This article seeks to draw lessons from this crisis, whose final chapters have yet to be written. The lessons fall into two broad, overlapping categories: fiscal and economic policy; and budget procedures and practices. Section 1 looks back at the crisis in search of markers that distinguish between fiscally strong and weak countries. Section 2 looks forward to consider how national governments may avert future fiscal meltdowns by incorporating risk assessment and other early warning signals into routine budget work, and by devising more effective rules and procedures to ward off fiscal mischief. The concluding section reflects on how the practice of budgeting might be altered by shocks to established procedures.
19 Mar 2013
Budgeting in Ukraine
Dirk-Jan Kraan, Lisa von Trapp, Valentina Kostyleva, Jan van Tuinen, Matthias Morgner
This budget review of Ukraine first discusses some general legal, political and economic characteristics of the country and recent institutional reforms. Section 2 examines the budget formulation process with separate attention for the budget structure and classification, the annual budget preparation cycle, medium-term planning, long-term fiscal sustainability, the organisation of the Ministry of Finance, and the funding of local government. Section 3 addresses the parliamentary budget process with special attention for the Budget Committee, the annual parliamentary budget cycle, and the impact of parliament. Section 4 focuses on budget execution with special attention for the annual executive process, cash management, and budgetary discipline. Section 5 looks at the supply side of the budget process: the ministries and agencies that provide for public administration and service delivery at the level of central government, as well as such provision by local governments. Section 5 also addresses public employment, the civil service, public procurement, and the public enterprise sector. Section 6 looks at accounting and audit, with special attention for financial reporting, internal audit, and external audit.
JEL classification: H610, H570, H830
Keywords: Budget formulation, budget preparation cycle, budget structure and classification, medium-term planning, long-term fiscal sustainability, parliamentary budget process, parliamentary budget committee, annual budget cycle, budget execution, cash management, budgetary discipline, public administration and service delivery, local government, public procurement, public employment, civil service, public enterprise sector, accounting, audit, financial reporting, internal audit, external audit, Ukraine.
19 Mar 2013
Redirecting public finance towards a sustainable path
This article summarises the conclusions of Gerhard Steger, chair of the OECD Working Party of Senior Budget Officials, which he presented at the 2nd International Policy Forum on Budgeting in Seoul in November 2011.
19 Mar 2013
Economic theory and four centuries of fiscal decentralisation in the Netherlands
The history of the Netherlands reveals major shifts from centralisation of government tasks towards decentralisation and vice versa. In the 17th century, the Republic of United Provinces was the first federal state in modern history. Many transformations later, the Kingdom of the Netherlands became a big centralised welfare state. Since the 1980s, a reverse development has started: the welfare state is being downsized and decentralised. This article describes and discusses this evolution in view of a broad spectrum of economic theories. Four conclusions are drawn. First, the major changes in Dutch fiscal decentralisation arrangements were introduced as policies to overcome a severe economic and political crisis. Second, many other factors – like the increase in communication, mobility, population density, urbanisation and the role of government – also necessitated changes. Third, in order to ensure efficient and financially solid government, the accountability and transparency of central and local government and their interrelationships have been improved substantially. Fourth, current arrangements are not optimal and should be changed. For example, Dutch municipalities should increase further in scale, and the role of Dutch provinces should be reconsidered.
26 Mar 2012
Fiscal rules and regime-dependent fiscal reaction functions
Philippe Burger, Marina Marinkov
This article argues the case for a policy of "anchored flexibility" in the form of a flexible fiscal rule that allows for the pursuit of economic stability but always anchors that pursuit in fiscal sustainability. The rule is explicitly structured to be simple and is designed in analogy to the inflation-targeting framework. The article heeds the warning that consistently forecasting the output gap with any degree of precision is quite difficult, if not impossible, and thus proposes a target band for the deficit, instead of point targets for the overall deficit and the structural budget balance. To ensure fiscal sustainability over and above the contribution of the deficit rule, the article also proposes a band for the debt/GDP ratio. This debt rule acts as a negative feedback rule that stipulates the adjustments required in the deficit, should the actual debt/GDP ratio move outside the stipulated band. Since the government needs to change revenue and expenditure in order to change the deficit, the article then explores empirically whether and with how much revenue and expenditure in South Africa changed to maintain fiscal sustainability. More specifically the article explores various models of the fiscal reaction function to illuminate government behaviour in South Africa. These models consider how the deficit, expenditure and different types of revenue reacted to the debt/GDP ratio and the output gap to ensure fiscal sustainability. Lastly, the article considers measures that could enhance the automatic stabilisers, while simultaneously allowing for the maintenance of fiscal sustainability in the medium term.