This technical assistance report on Iceland focuses on a new organic budget law (OBL). In designing a new OBL, it is important to preserve good features of Iceland’s current legal framework for budgeting. At the same time, any new OBL should address the key weaknesses in the Financial Reporting Act 1997 that prevent it from providing a credible, integrated framework for budgeting. The institutional coverage of the OBL should be expanded to encompass the whole public sector and incorporate an integrated timetable for the entire budget process.
Leandro Medina, Carlos Caceres, and Ms. Ana Corbacho
In recent years, many countries have adopted Fiscal Responsibility Laws to strengthen fiscal institutions and promote fiscal discipline in a credible, predictable and transparent manner. Still, results on the effectiveness of these laws remain tentative. In this paper, we test empirically whether fiscal performance, measured as the level of primary fiscal balances and their volatility, indeed improved after the implementation of Fiscal Responsibility Laws in a sample of Latin American and advanced economies. We show that traditional econometric approaches, which rely on the use of dummies in time series or panel regressions, yield biased estimates. In contrast, our empirical strategy recognizes that, a priori, the timing of the effect of these laws on fiscal performance is unknown, while controlling for the impact of the business and commodity cycles on fiscal outcomes. Overall, we find limited empirical evidence in support of the view that Fiscal Responsibility Laws have had a distinguishable effect on fiscal performance. However, Fiscal Responsibility Laws could still have other positive effects on the conduct of fiscal policy not analyzed here, for instance, through enhanced transparency and guidance in the budget process and lower risk premia.
Fiscal Responsibility Laws (FRLs) appear to be more popular in middle-income countries than advanced countries, even though their success is limited. The reasons why few advanced countries have a FRL include: the existing legal framework for the budget system is adequate; supranational rules and political agreements in EU countries; failed attempts to include quantitative fiscal rules in laws; lack of consensus or interest in attaining the goals of FRL-type legislation; and lack of need for a law to regulate fiscal transparency, accountability and macro-fiscal stabilization. Without commitment to fiscal discipline, adoption of a FRL may not contribute to attaining fiscal consolidation goals.
This technical note focuses on the concept of autonomy and describes why it is important in public administration. There has been a tendency for governments to increase the autonomy of their departments and agencies. The basic principle is that such autonomy can lead to better performance by removing impediments to effective and efficient management while maintaining appropriate accountability and transparency. This note explains how autonomy is relevant for revenue administration and what is the range of autonomy currently practiced. The paper also describes key measures of autonomy in revenue administration.
Mr. Manmohan S. Kumar and Mrs. Teresa Ter-Minassian
Fiscal discipline is essential to improve and sustain economic performance, maintain macroeconomic stability, and reduce vulnerabilities. Discipline is especially important if countries, industrial as well as developing, are to successfully meet the challenges, and reap the benefits, of economic and financial globalization. Lack of fiscal discipline generally stems from the injudicious use of policy discretion. The benefits of discretion are seen in terms of the ability of policymakers to respond to unexpected shocks and in allowing elected political representatives to fulfill their mandates. But discretion can be misused, resulting in persistent deficits and procyclical policies, rising debt levels, and, over time, a loss in policy credibility. The authors first explore the role of discretion in fiscal policy, and the extent, consequences, and causes of procyclicality, particularly in good times. They then examine how a variety of institutional approaches—fiscal rules, fiscal responsibility laws, and fiscal agencies—can help improve fiscal discipline. While each of these approaches can play a useful role, the authors suggest that a strategy combining them is likely to be particularly beneficial. Although such a strategy requires political commitment and effective fiscal management, at the same time, the strategy itself can bolster political commitment by highlighting the restraints on government and raising the costs of failing to respect them.
There has been widespread adoption of new laws to support new public management. In many countries that have implemented comprehensive and deep reforms, new or amended laws have fundamentally changed the role of the state and the budget processes supporting it. Paradoxically, far-reaching modifications to the legal framework for public management have been strongest in countries that often rely on executive decrees for introducing reforms. This reflects the fundamental nature of the changes, including introducing performanceoriented budgeting and enhancing fiscal transparency and accountability. Differences in political systems, policy preoccupations, administrative arrangements and legal cultures will prevent globalization of the legal framework for public management.
This paper discusses basic principles underlying budget law and reviews key features of budget legislation in several OECD countries as a basis for development of budget legislation in economies in transition to a market environment (EITs). It recommends a broad structure and a number of specific provisions that could be included in budget law for EITs.