PACIFIC ECONOMIC PAPERS NO. 346, 2005
The 1990s saw an era of fiscal consolidation in industrialised countries, which struggled with fiscal deficits throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Reforms in public expenditure management, typically the introduction of fiscal rules and targets, together with favourable economic growth contributed to a significant improvement in fiscal positions. However, fiscal deficits have been increasing again since the turn of the 21st century in many OECD countries. Interestingly, some countries have been able to maintain fiscal discipline since the achievement of fiscal balance in the latter half of the 1990s. What has caused this difference? This paper derives important lessons for reform in public expenditure management from the experiences of major OECD countries, including Australia, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK and the USA. Essentially, success in maintaining fiscal discipline lies in maintaining a firm political commitment, and strengthening expenditure management that underpins any such commitment, specifically a medium-term fiscal plan in line with fiscal rules and targets in a centralised and transparent manner. Public expenditure management reform is a cornerstone of the restructuring of public sector services, especially in welfare programs aimed at overcoming problems arising from an aging population.