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Mr. Alvar Kangur, Koralai Kirabaeva, Jean-Marc Natal, and Simon Voigts
We study the properties of the IMF-WEO estimates of real-time output gaps for countries in the euro area as well as the determinants of their revisions over 1994-2017. The analysis shows that staff typically saw economies as operating below their potential. In real time, output gaps tend to have large and negative averages that are largely revised away in later vintages. Most of the mis-measurement in real time can be explained by the difficulty in predicting recessions and by overestimation of the economy’s potential capacity. We also find, in line with earlier literature, that real-time output gaps are not useful for predicting inflation. In addition, countries where slack (and potential growth) is overestimated to a larger extent primary fiscal balances tend to be lower and public debt ratios are higher and increase faster than projected. Previous research suggests that national authorities’ real-time output gaps suffer from a similar bias. To the extent these estimates play a role in calibrating fiscal policy, over-optimism about long-term growth could contribute to excessive deficits and debt buildup.
International Monetary Fund. Fiscal Affairs Dept.


Public sector balance sheets provide the most comprehensive picture of public wealth. They bring together all the accumulated assets and liabilities that the government controls, including public corporations, natural resources, and pension liabilities. They thus account for the entirety of what the state owns and owes, offering a broader fiscal picture beyond debt and deficits. Most governments do not provide such transparency, thereby avoiding the additional scrutiny it brings. Better balance sheet management enables countries to increase revenues, reduce risks, and improve fiscal policymaking. There is some empirical evidence that financial markets are increasingly paying attention to the entire government balance sheet and that strong balance sheets enhance economic resilience. This issue of the Fiscal Monitor presents a new database that shows comprehensive estimates of public sector assets and liabilities for a broad sample of 31 countries, covering 61 percent of the global economy, and provides tools to analyze and manage public wealth. Estimates of public wealth reveal the full scale of public assets and liabilities. Assets are worth US$101 trillion or 219 percent of GDP in the sample. This includes 120 percent of GDP in public corporation assets. Also included are natural resources that average 110 percent of GDP among the large natural-resource-producing countries. Recognizing these assets does not negate the vulnerabilities associated with the standard measure of general government public debt, comprising 94 percent of GDP for these countries. This is only half of total public sector liabilities of 198 percent of GDP, which also includes 46 percent of GDP in already accrued pension liabilities. Once governments understand the size and nature of public assets, they can start managing them more effectively. Potential gains from better asset management are considerable. Revenue gains from nonfinancial public corporations and government financial assets alone could be as high as 3 percent of GDP a year, equivalent to annual corporate tax collections across advanced economies. In addition, considerable gains could be realized from government nonfinancial assets. Public assets are a significant resource, and how governments use and report on them matters, not just for financial reasons, but also in terms of improving service delivery and preventing the misuse of resources that often results from a lack of transparency.

Ezequiel Cabezon and Christian Henn
Based on a permanent income analysis, Gagnon (2018) has prominently suggested that Norway has saved too much, thereby free-riding on the rest of the world for demand. Our public sector balance sheet analysis comes to the opposite conclusion, chiefly because it also accounts for future aging costs. Unsurprisingly, we find that Norway’s current assets exceed its liabilities by some 340 percent of mainland GDP. But its nonoil fiscal deficits have grown very large (to almost 8 percent of mainland GDP) and aging pressures are only commencing. Therefore, Norway’s intertemporal financial net worth (IFNW) is negative, at about -240 percent of mainland GDP. As IFNW represents an intertemporal budget constraint, this implies that Norway’s savings are likely insufficient to address aging costs without additional fiscal action.
Maren Brede and Christian Henn
We construct a comprehensive public sector balance sheet for Finland from 2000 to 2016 by complementing general government statistics with data on public corporations and public pensions. We show that exposure to valuation changes in equity markets through asset holdings and increases in pension liabilities relative to GDP amplify crisis impacts on public finances. We expand the balance sheet by including present value estimates of future fiscal flows; this allows us to perform fiscal stress tests and policy experiments. These analyses suggest that Finland’s public finances will remain sound provided ongoing reform and consolidation efforts to address aging pressures are implemented as planned.
Mr. Richard I Allen, Yasemin Hurcan, Peter Murphy, Mr. Maximilien Queyranne, and Mr. Sami Yläoutinen
There is relatively little literature that analyses the role, functions, and organization of finance ministries. The purpose of this working paper is to review international experiences in this area, in an effort to formulate guiding principles of organizational design and the allocation of functions, while recognizing the crucial importance of each country’s history and institutional context. Over the past 30 years many finance ministries have moved from a “traditional” to an “emerging” model of organizational design in which there is greater openness and transparency, more flexible management practices, and a broader focus on strategic policy issues. In addition, many operational functions have been devolved to arm’s–length agencies or line ministries. The paper describes the challenges facing developing countries in strengthening their finance ministries, and the principles, approaches, and strategies that can be applied.
Mr. Timothy C Irwin
Fiscal reporting is intended to warn of fiscal crises while there is still time to prevent them. The recent crisis thus seems to reveal a failure of fiscal reporting: before the crisis, even reports on fiscal risk typically did not mention banks as a possible source of fiscal problems. One reason for silence was that the risk arose partly from implicit guarantees, and governments may have feared that disclosure would increase moral hazard. The crisis cast doubt, however, on the effectiveness of silence in mitigating risks. This paper discusses how fiscal risks from the financial sector could be discussed in reports on fiscal risk, with a view to encouraging their mitigation.
Mr. Ian Lienert
Esta nota1 trata las siguientes cuestiones principales: • ¿En qué momento del ciclo presupuestario debería participar el parlamento? • ¿Qué aspectos aprueba normalmente el parlamento, a diferencia de los aspectos que revisa? • ¿Con qué estructura interna y apoyo debería contar el parlamento para examinar los proyectos de presupuesto preparados por el gobierno y el presupuesto aprobado? • ¿Qué requisitos legales y de rendición de cuentas debería imponer el parlamento al poder ejecutivo? • ¿De qué manera debería formalizarse la participación de la legislatura en los procesos presupuestarios en las leyes y reglamentaciones?
Mr. Ian Lienert
This paper examines the role of the legislature in budget processes. The paper highlights that for promoting good governance and fiscal transparency, the legislature’s active engagement in the budget process is essential. When fiscal policies and medium-term budgetary objectives are debated in parliament, budget strategies and policies are “owned” more widely. However, more active participation by the legislature runs the risk that fiscal discipline deteriorates. In countries where the legislature has unrestrained budget amendment authority, parliament is prone to introduce changes that increase spending or reduce taxes.
International Monetary Fund. Fiscal Affairs Dept.


Public sector balance sheets (PSBSs) provide the most comprehensive view of public wealth, yet they are little understood, poorly measured, and only partly managed. Standard fiscal analysis focuses on flows—revenues, expenditures, and deficits—with assessments of stocks largely limited to gross debt. The focus on debt misses large swaths of government activity and can fall victim to illusory fiscal practices.