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The Evolution of Fiscal Policy in Australia

Author

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  • David Gruen
  • Amanda Sayegh

Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of Australian fiscal policy and the fiscal policy framework over the past quartercentury. Following the early 1980s recession, a sustained fiscal consolidation saw the general government budget balance (for all levels of government) move from a deficit of 3½ per cent of GDP in 1983/4 to a surplus of 1¾ per cent 5 years later in 1988/9. A severe recession in the early 1990s interrupted this process, and the budget returned to sizeable deficits which peaked at 4¾ per cent of GDP in 1992/3. The second half of the 1990s saw a repeat of the experience a decade earlier, with the budget returning to surplus in 1997/8. In contrast to the 1980s experience, however, the general government sector (for all levels of government) has recorded surpluses for the subsequent 8 years to the present. The paper outlines Australia's macroeconomic experience over this time and argues that there have been two significant medium-term factors motivating the extended periods of fiscal consolidation. The first factor, relevant since the mid-1980s, has been the large Australian current-account deficits since that time, and the associated build-up of net foreign liabilities. The second factor, which entered the public debate more recently, is a desire to provide fiscal policy flexibility to respond to the ageing of the population and the projected rising public cost of health services--both influences that are likely to be of increasing importance over the next generation or so. The paper discusses the introduction and evolution of Australia's medium-term fiscal framework which has been put in place to respond to these challenges. Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • David Gruen & Amanda Sayegh, 2005. "The Evolution of Fiscal Policy in Australia," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(4), pages 618-635, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:21:y:2005:i:4:p:618-635
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Makin, A.J., 1988. "Targeting Australia’s Current Account: A New Mercantilism?," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 199-212.
    2. J. D. Pitchford, 1989. "A Sceptical View of Australia's Current Account and Debt Problem," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 22(2), pages 5-14.
    3. Guy Debelle & Gabriele Galati, 2007. "Current Account Adjustment and Capital Flows," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 989-1013, November.
    4. Edward Nelson, 2005. "Monetary Policy Neglect and the Great Inflation in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 1(1), May.
    5. W. Max Corden, 1991. "Does The Current Account Matter? The Old View And The New," Economic Papers, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 10(3), pages 1-19, September.
    6. David Gruen & Glenn Stevens, 2000. "Australian Macroeconomic Performances and Policies in the 1990s," RBA Annual Conference Volume,in: David Gruen & Sona Shrestha (ed.), The Australian Economy in the 1990s Reserve Bank of Australia.
    7. David Gruen & Matthew Garbutt, 2004. "The long term fiscal implications of raising Australian labour force participation or productivity growth," Treasury Working Papers 2004-01, The Treasury, Australian Government, revised Apr 2004.
    8. David Gruen & Tim Robinson & Andrew Stone, 2005. "Output Gaps In Real Time: How Reliable Are They?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 81(252), pages 6-18, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Brittle, Shane, 2009. "Ricardian Equivalence and the Efficacy of Fiscal Policy in Australia," Economics Working Papers wp09-10, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
    2. Phil Garton, 2007. "Comparing the net foreign liability dynamics of Australia and the United States," Economic Roundup, The Treasury, Australian Government, issue 4, pages 101-117, December.
    3. Phil Garton & Matt Sedgwick & Siddharth Shirodkar, 2010. "Australia’s current account deficit in a global imbalances context," Economic Roundup, The Treasury, Australian Government, issue 1, pages 29-50, April.
    4. Craig Beaumont & Li Cui, 2007. "Conquering Fear of Floating; Australia's Successful Adaptation to a Flexible Exchange Rate," IMF Policy Discussion Papers 07/2, International Monetary Fund.
    5. Neil Dias Karunaratne, 2008. "The Polemics and Empirics of the Sustainability of Australia’s Current Account Deficit - Revisited," Discussion Papers Series 364, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    6. Eric M. Leeper, 2009. "Anchoring fiscal expectations," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 72, pages 17-42, September.
    7. Tony McDonald & Yong Hong Yan & Blake Ford & David Stephan, 2010. "Estimating the structural budget balance of the Australian Government," Economic Roundup, The Treasury, Australian Government, issue 3, pages 51-79, October.
    8. Rochelle Belkar & Lynne Cockerell & Christopher Kent, 2008. "Current Account Deficits: Tha Australian Debate," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Kevin Cowan & Sebastián Edwards & Rodrigo O. Valdés & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt- (ed.), Current Account and External Financing, edition 1, volume 12, chapter 13, pages 491-535 Central Bank of Chile.
    9. Jonathan Kearns & Philip Lowe, 2011. "Australia's Prosperous 2000s: Housing and the Mining Boom," RBA Annual Conference Volume,in: Hugo Gerard & Jonathan Kearns (ed.), The Australian Economy in the 2000s Reserve Bank of Australia.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General

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