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April 2013

April 23, 2013

Revitalizing the Fiscal Transparency Agenda

Posted by Min Zhu, Deputy Managing Director, IMF

The first public event of this year’s IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings was a seminar organized by the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department on the morning of Monday April 15th which brought together experts from governments, academia, civil society, and international organizations to discuss how to work together to revitalize the fiscal transparency agenda in the wake of the recent crisis.

The timing of last Monday’s Fiscal Transparency Seminar at the start of a week of seminars, panels, roundtables, and other events underscores the importance that the IMF attaches to the issue of fiscal transparency. The number of people who turned up to listen to and participate in the discussion highlighted the breadth and depth of public interest in this topic. The need to improve government financial disclosure was a recurring theme in many of the discussions which I attended during the past very busy week. 

For those of you who could not join us at last week’s seminar, I would like to use this article to share with you the IMF’s latest thinking on fiscal transparency and present our work program in this critical area. In particular, I want to focus on three issues:

  • first, I want to highlight the progress that has been made in promoting greater fiscal transparency over the past decade, thanks to the collective efforts of governments, civil society, academics, think tanks, international organizations, and others;
  • second, I want to review some of the lessons that the recent crisis has taught us about the adequacy of existing fiscal transparency standards and practices; and
  • finally, I’d like to outline the key elements of a revitalized fiscal transparency agenda, and how the Fund plans to support that agenda.

Continue reading "Revitalizing the Fiscal Transparency Agenda" »

April 18, 2013

Managing Public Finances Is Vital to Economic Prosperity

As posted on IMF Survey Online

PFM_Book_Cover
Across the world many countries are now grappling with restoring sound and sustainable public finances: the way governments manage their budgets today will have profound economic effects in the years ahead. A new book by the IMF looks at reforms introduced by governments over the past two decades to improve management of public finances. These innovative ideas and reforms are changing the landscape of public finances and eventually aim to fundamentally change the way governments manage the public’s money.

The global financial and economic crisis highlighted the importance of sound public financial management in ensuring that well-designed fiscal policies are implemented effectively. Sound management of public finances means maintaining a sustainable fiscal position, allocating resources efficiently, and delivering public goods and services effectively.

The book looks at how reforms to public financial management make use of new information, processes, and rules to change the behavior of politicians and public servants to counter the ongoing challenges of managing government’s money. As identified in the book, too often the tendency for policy makers is to spend rather than save in good times; to focus on the short term; and to ignore the future costs of new policies, underlying fiscal risk, and the true state of public finances.

“The global crisis has highlighted that reforming governments’ management of public finances is no longer an option but a necessity. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution—reforms need to be tailored to countries’ individual circumstances,” said IMF Deputy Managing Director, Min Zhu, who addressed officials, journalists, and academics gathered at a special seminar to discuss the findings in the book.

Continue reading "Managing Public Finances Is Vital to Economic Prosperity" »

April 11, 2013

Austria – From an Incremental Improver to a Comprehensive Reformer

Posted by Johann Seiwald[1]

From the mid 1990s on, Austria has steadily improved its framework for fiscal policy and budgeting. With Austria’s accession to the European Union and the corresponding need to meet the Maastricht debt and deficit requirements, in 1996 a top-down approach replaced a “demand-driven” budgeting model in which fiscal discipline was not enforced and line ministries had little incentives for structural changes. Since 2000, the use of lump-sum budgets and performance budgeting has been piloted in more than 20 government agencies, including prisons, a printing office and the police academy. The implementation of a new cost accounting system for all federal ministries, as well as projects aimed at improving performance management, and introducing product definitions for public services and performance indicators in several line ministries, has steadily enriched the financial management framework.

Continue reading "Austria – From an Incremental Improver to a Comprehensive Reformer" »

April 08, 2013

Reforming PFM in Developing Countries

Posted by Richard Allen[i]

I recently had the pleasure of discussing PFM reform issues with senior officials of the Ministry of Finance in Jamaica and, a few days later, at a workshop in Trinidad for the member countries of the IMF’s Caribbean Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) which was attended by several Finance Secretaries from the region. In Jamaica, reform of the public sector is high on the government’s agenda as a result of the negative impact of the global financial crisis, high levels of indebtedness and a weak economy. Finance officials in other parts of the region are trying to reconcile the need to make important structural reforms with the day-to-day pressures of managing the budget and dealing with myriad other financial contingencies. 

What are the main messages that came out of these various interesting conversations?

Continue reading "Reforming PFM in Developing Countries" »

April 05, 2013

Turkey’s Successful Modernization of Treasury Operations

 Posted by Yasemin Hurcan[1]

Turkey book
In ten years that followed the 2001 economic crisis in the country, Turkey managed to halve its debt to GDP ratio. As a result, Turkey was selected as a benchmark country for debt reduction in the World Bank’s 2012 report “Golden Growth: Restoring the Lustre of the European Economic Model”. A recently published book[2] entitled “Treasury Operations in Turkey and Contemporary Sovereign Treasury Management” discusses how the Turkish Treasury managed to decrease its debt by, amongst other things, restructuring the Treasury’s operations and management. The publication is available as an e-book.

Continue reading "Turkey’s Successful Modernization of Treasury Operations" »

April 03, 2013

Make Way for the Hybrids

Posted by Matt Andrews. This article was originally published by Foreign Policy on April 2, 2013.

Development experts are often quick to focus on the role of institutions. They are, simply put, the "rules of the game" derived over time that drive politics, economics, and other social interactions. Social scientists like Douglass North, Daron Acemoglu, and Jim Robinson have shown that these rules strongly influence how countries grow and develop. Over decades, theorists and development practitioners have compiled what one might consider a script of the "right" rules and institutions needed to foster economic growth and open societies with good governments that advance the needs of their citizens. But despite all the good intentions, this western-created game plan hasn't quite worked out as expected. 

Organizations like the World Bank have supported institutional reforms in developing countries for more than two decades now, often making it the backbone of their development agendas. Such work accounts for billions of dollars of development spending each year, devoted to creating democratic electoral processes, robust public financial management systems, effective anticorruption regimes, and other new rules of the game in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Uganda. 

At first glance, many of these reforms seem to have yielded success. In Afghanistan, for example, new laws adopted after 2003 have modernized the government's budgeting and financial management system. The system's quality was ranked "higher than a middle-income country" in a 2008 assessment using the multi-donor Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) framework, which compares countries' governance systems with what is considered "international good practice." Similarly, Uganda's anticorruption reforms have produced new laws that donors tout as world-class. The think-tank Global Integrity rated these laws as best in the world in 2008, giving them a perfect 100 score. Canada scored 90; Italy got 82. 

Continue reading "Make Way for the Hybrids" »

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