April 13, 2018
Rules to contain lavish government deficits are most effective if countries design them to be simple, flexible, and enforceable in the face of changing economic circumstances.
In new analysis, we look at fiscal rules in over 90 countries and, based on their experiences, find that the rules put in the place over the last three decades often were too complex, overly rigid, and difficult to enforce. […]
(Versions in Español)
The Finance Minister answers her mobile. On the line is the Minister of Energy, who informs her that the country has struck oil and that he expects revenues from its sale to start flowing into the budget in the coming four years. While excited by the prospects of higher revenues—indeed the average resource-rich country gets more than 15 percent of GDP in resource revenues—she starts to ponder how to use these revenues for her country’s development. She is aware that only in rare cases have natural resources served as a catalyst for development; too often they have led to economic instability, corruption, and conflict or what has been termed as “the resource curse.”
Five years into the crisis, the fiscal landscape remains challenging. On the positive side, deficit-cutting efforts and the first signs of recovery reduced the fiscal stress felt in many advanced economies; but debt ratios often remain at historical peaks. At the same time, slowing growth and rising borrowing costs, combined with unabated demands for improved public services, puts pressure on government budgets in emerging market economies.
So we created an index of ‘fiscal difficulty’ that shows the biggest challenge ahead for advanced economies is to maintain budget surpluses until debt ratios return to lower levels. We expect this will take several years.