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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

Government expenditures as a share of GDP and expenditures per capita indicate the size of the government and reflect historical and current political decisions about its role in providing services and in redistributing income. However, a large part of the variation in these ratios across countries display the different approaches to delivering goods and services and giving social support, rather than true differences in resources spent. For instance, if support is given via tax breaks rather than direct expenditure, expenditure/ GDP ratios will naturally be lower. In addition, for OECD member countries that are members of the European Union, the Maastricht criteria include targets for the amount that expenditures can exceed revenues in any given year. Finally, it is important to note that the size of expenditures does not reflect government efficiency or productivity.

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