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Fiscal policy/Addendum

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This addendum is a continuation of the article Fiscal policy.

Fiscal stance - an example

The aggregate fiscal stance of the 27 countries of the European Union
(percentage of GDP)
2000 2008 2009 2011
1 Total Revenue 45.4 44.6 44.0 44.6
2=3+4+5 Total taxation 27.3 26.6 25.3 26.6
3 Indirect taxation 13.4 13.1 12.8 13.1
4 Direct taxation 13.7 13.1 12.2 12.6
5 Capital taxes 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.3
6 Social security contributions 13.9 13.7 14.2 13.9
7 Sales 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.6
8 Other current revenue 1.8 1.9 1.9 1.8
9 Capital revenue 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.3
10 Total expenditure 45.2 46.9 50.7 49.1
11 Intermediate consumption 5.9 6.3 6.9 6.7
12 Compensation of employees 10.5 10.5 11.2 10.8
13 Interest 3.6 2.7 2.6 2.9
14 Subsidies 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.2
15 Social security benefits 19.3 19.5 21.7 21.3
16 Other current expenditure 2.0 2.4 2.6 2.6
17 Capital transfers 1.1 1.4 1.5 1.1
18 Capital investments 1.5 2.6 2.9 2.4
19 of which Gross fixed capital expenditure 1.5 2.6 2.9 2.5
20=1-10 Budget balance 0.2 - 2.3 - 6.8 -4.5

(Source: Eurostat[1])

Deficit-limiting rules

The maintenance of investor confidence is a matter of mutual concern among governments because crises that can lead to sovereign defaults can be contagious, in much the same way that bank runs can generate banking panics. That consideration has prompted currency unions such as the European Monetary Union to set up deficit-limiting rules and monitoring systems.

The European Union's Stability and Growth Pact

The Stability and Growth Pact [1] [2] that was introduced as part of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, set arbitrary limits upon member countries' budget deficits and levels of national debt at 3 per cent and 60 per cent of GDP respectively. Following multiple breaches of those limits, the pact has since been renegotiated to introduce the flexibility necessary to take account of changing economic conditions. Revisions introduced in 2005 relaxed the pact's enforcement procedures by introducing "medium-term budgetary objectives" that are differentiated across countries and can be revised when a major structural reform is implemented; and by providing for abrogation of the procedures during periods of low or negative economic growth [3]. A clarification of the concepts and methods of calculation involved was issued by the European Union's The Economic and Financial Affairs Council in November 2009 [4] which includes an explanation of its excessive deficit procedure.

The UK's Code for Fiscal Stability

In November 1997 the British government announced[5] its adoption of two rules of fiscal conduct:

- a "golden rule":that over the economic cycle, the government would only borrow to invest and not for public consumption, and
- a "sustainable investment rule": that over the economic cycle, the government would ensure the level of public debt as a proportion of national income is held at a stable and prudent level (subsequently interpreted as 40 per cent of gdp);

and an analysis [6] published by the Treasury in 2008 concluded that:

- the average surplus on the current budget over the previous economic cycle was positive, thus meeting the golden rule; and,
- public sector net debt remained below the 40 per cent of GDP limit of the sustainable investment rule over the cycle.

But in November 2008 the government announced [7] the replacement of those rules by a "temporary operating rule" under which it would set policies to improve the cyclically adjusted current budget each year, once the economy emerges from the downturn, so that it would reach balance with debt falling as a proportion of GDP once the global shocks had worked their way through the economy in full.