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  • National Budget, Deficit, and Debt: General x
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Mr. Carlo Cottarelli, Mr. Paolo Mauro, Lorenzo Forni, and Jan Gottschalk
This note summarizes the main arguments put forward by some market commentators who argue that default is inevitable, and presents a rebuttal for each argument in turn. Their main arguments focus on the size of the adjustment and continued market concerns reflected in government bond spreads. The essence of our reasoning is that the challenge stems mainly from the advanced economies’ large primary deficits. Thus, by lowering the interest bill while triggering the need to move to primary balance or a small primary surplus, default would not significantly reduce the need for major fiscal adjustment. In contrast, the emerging economies that defaulted in recent decades did so primarily as a result of high debt servicing costs, often in the context of major external shocks. We conclude that default would be ineffective and undesirable in today’s advanced economies.
Thomas Laryea
This paper starts from a discussion of the economic case for moderated government intervention in debt restructuring in the nonfinancial corporate sector. It then draws on lessons from past crises to explain three broad approaches that have been applied to corporate debt restructurings in the aftermath of a crisis. From there, it addresses challenges in designing and implementing a comprehensive debt restructuring strategy and draws together some key principles.
International Monetary Fund
This paper highlights the state of Public Finances Cross-Country Fiscal Monitor. This edition of the Cross-Country Fiscal Monitor provides an update of global fiscal developments and policy strategies, based on projections from the November 2009 WEO. These projections reflect the assessment of IMF staff of current country policies and initiatives expected during 2009–2014 Underlying fiscal trends in advanced economies are weaker than previously projected, however, lower expected costs of financial sector support in the United States mean that 2009 headline numbers are better. New estimates of needed medium-term fiscal adjustment in advanced economies. Fiscal policy will continue to provide substantial support to aggregate demand in most countries this year, but a tightening is projected to commence next year in G-20 emerging markets. Fiscal policy is projected to begin tightening in emerging G-20 economies next year, reflecting a combination of reduced anti-crisis spending and expected consolidation beyond the withdrawal of crisis-related stimulus in Brazil, Mexico, and Turkey, supported by a pick-up of growth. Higher commodity prices are also expected to contribute to lower overall deficit.
Mr. Steven A. Symansky and Mr. Thomas Baunsgaard
This paper discusses how to enhance automatic stabilizers without increasing the size of government. We distinguish between permanent changes in the parameters of the tax and expenditure system (e.g., changes in tax progressivity) that will enhance the traditional automatic stabilizer, and temporary changes triggered by certain economic developments (e.g., tax measures targeted at credit and liquidity constrained households, triggered during a severe downturn). We argue that, with some exceptions, the latter are preferable as they can be implemented with lower disruptions in other fiscal policy goals (e.g., economic efficiency). Moreover, countries should also avoid introducing procyclicality as a result of fiscal rules, as these would offset the effect of existing automatic stabilizers.
Mr. Carlo Cottarelli and José Vinãls
In response to the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, government budgets and central banks have provided substantial support for aggregate demand and for the financial sector. In the process, fiscal balances have deteriorated, government liabilities and central bank balance sheets have been expanded, and risks of future losses for the public sector have increased.
Mr. Paolo Mauro, Mr. Mark A Horton, and Mr. Manmohan S. Kumar
This paper presents sharp increase in government debt has complicated the management of preexisting challenges from population aging, especially in advanced economies. The increase in debt ratios projected for these economies is the largest since World War II. The increase in deficits and debt raises complicated tradeoffs. Policymakers will need to balance two competing risks: on the one hand, a too hasty withdrawal of fiscal stimulus would risk nipping a recovery in the bud; on the other hand, with a delayed withdrawal investor concerns about sustainability may increase, leading to higher interest rates on government paper, undermining the recovery and increasing risks of a snowballing of debt. Regardless of the timing of adjustment, its necessary scale will be quite large, particularly for high-debt advanced economies. Preserving investor confidence in government solvency is key to avoiding an increase in interest rates, thereby not only preventing snowballing debt dynamics, but also ensuring that the fiscal stimulus is effective.
Mr. Kevin Fletcher, Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, Mr. Duncan P Last, Mr. Gerd Schwartz, Mr. Shamsuddin Tareq, Mr. Richard I Allen, and Ms. Isabell Adenauer


The international community has committed to scaling up aid and improving aid delivery to low-income countries to help them meet the Millennium Development Goals. Other "emerging" donors, public and private, are increasing their assistance, and debt-relief initiatives are creating space for new borrowing. Remittances to low-income countries have been on a precipitous rise, and many countries are benefiting from high commodity prices. Fiscal Management of Scaled-Up Aid explores approaches to the sound fiscal management that will be required to ensure effective and sustainable use of these flows. With a medium-term perspective and efficient use of resources in mind, this paper addresses questions that shape fiscal policy response to scaled-up aid. Drawing on IMF Fiscal Affairs Department technical assistance to member countries, it outlines factors that should be taken into account in preparing an action plan for public financial management reform and proposes specific measures that will assist countries in strengthening fiscal institutions.

Mr. Jack Diamond


With increasing frequency, the IMF has assisted middle-income countries, especially emerging economies, in adopting the types of budget reforms that have been introduced in many Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries - reforms that emphasize performance and results achieved from the use of public resources. This paper examines the experience of OECD countries in introducing such reforms and assesses whether the same reform strategy be applied to non-OECD countries. It examines how emerging economies should begin such reforms, and how they should be sequenced thereafter. Based on a thorough review of the technical assistance provided by the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD) to middle-income countries, this paper will be useful to policymakers and administrators in emerging economies who are contemplating such reforms.

Ms. Rina Bhattacharya, Mr. Benedict J. Clements, Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, Mr. Shamsuddin Tareq, Mr. Alex Segura-Ubiergo, and Mr. Todd D. Mattina


This paper discusses experiences in reestablishing fiscal management in postconflict countries. Building fiscal institutions in postconflict countries essentially entails a three-step process: (1) creating a legal or regulatory framework for fiscal management; (2) establishing or strengthening fiscal authority; and (3) designing appropriate revenue and expenditure policies while simultaneously strengthening revenue administration and public expenditure management. Based on experiences in 14 postconflict countries, the paper reviews the challenges in rebuilding fiscal institutions in these countries, and identifies key priorities in the fiscal area following the cessation of hostilities.

Mr. Peter S. Heller
With new initiatives to provide low income countries with external assistance in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), donors and NGOs are seeking to understand whether "fiscal space" can be provided in the context of IMF-supported programs to support these initiatives. This paper defines the concept of fiscal space and its link to fiscal sustainability, describes alternative ways in which fiscal space can be created, and notes how the IMF can support appropriate efforts to create fiscal space. The paper underscores that the issues that arise in creating fiscal space are not novel, but have always confronted governments in judging whether there is scope for additional expenditure.