Government at a Glance 2009

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The actions and policies of government touch our daily lives in countless ways. Quantifying and measuring government actions can help leaders make better decisions, and can help to hold government accountable to its citizens. 

Government at a Glance is a new, biennial publication of the OECD providing over 30 indicators describing government performance. It compares the political and institutional frameworks of government across OECD countries, as well as government revenues, expenditures and employment. It also includes indicators describing government policies and practices in integrity, e-government and open government, and introduces several composite indexes summarising key aspects of public management practices in human resource management, budgeting and regulatory management. For each figure, the book provides a dynamic link (StatLink) which directs the user to a web page where the corresponding data are available in Excel® format.

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General government expenditure by function

Governments can choose to spend their money on a variety of goods and services, from providing child care to building bridges to subsidising alternative energy sources. For OECD member countries that are members of the European Union, common policy goals regarding economic growth, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and research and development (among others) may also affect the structure of expenditures. The variance among countries in expenditures as a share of GDP is mainly explained by political differences about the role of government in providing social protections (unemployment insurance, old age pensions and disability benefits). When government spending on social protection is excluded, expenditures range between 20% and 30% of GDP in all countries. Social protection is the largest category of expenses in all but three countries: Korea spends the most on economic affairs whereas the United States and Iceland spend more on health than any other government function.

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