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Government at a Glance 2019

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Government at a Glance provides reliable, internationally comparative data on government activities and their results in OECD countries. Where possible, it also reports data for Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and South Africa. In many public governance areas, it is the only available source of data. It includes input, process, output and outcome indicators as well as contextual information for each country.

The 2019 edition includes input indicators on public finance and employment; while processes include data on institutions, budgeting practices and procedures, human resources management, regulatory government, public procurement and digital government and open data. Outcomes cover core government results (e.g. trust, inequality reduction) and indicators on access, responsiveness, quality and citizen satisfaction for the education, health and justice sectors. Governance indicators are especially useful for monitoring and benchmarking governments’ progress in their public sector reforms.

Each indicator in the publication is presented in a user-friendly format, consisting of graphs and/or charts illustrating variations across countries and over time, brief descriptive analyses highlighting the major findings conveyed by the data, and a methodological section on the definition of the indicator and any limitations in data comparability.

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General government structural balance

The government fiscal balance can be significantly affected by economic cycles and one-off events. Government revenues (particularly tax revenues) tend to decline during economic downturns, as there is less economic activity subject to the corresponding taxes. At the same time, public spending may increase as more people become unemployed and qualify for social assistance or unemployment benefits. The government could also decide to carry on additional expenditure (e.g. investment) to counterbalance the effects of less private activity. As such, the general government fiscal balance alone does not depict a full picture of the government’s underlying fiscal position. General government structural balance, which takes into account the effects that could be attributed to the economic cycle and one-off events, better captures structural trends for assessing the sustainability of public finances in the long run. Estimating the structural balance requires estimating the structural and cyclical components of both the fiscal balance and output, (also referred to as the potential GDP [i.e. the economy working at full capacity not affecting inflation]). In turn, the output gap measures the difference between actual and potential GDP.

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