On the Use of Budgetary Norms as a Tool for Fiscal Management
The use of expenditure needs, sometimes referred to as "expenditure norms", "budgetary norms", or "minimum standards", is important in the formulation of budgets and, especially, in the establishment of transfer and grant formulae. Minimum standards are also used by central governments to control expenditure policies of subnational governments, often with the goal of protecting and enhancing national priorities. However, despite the continued wide use of expenditure norms, there are many aspects there are not fully understood. Perhaps the most basic issue is the actual construction of the norms. In this paper we examine what some countries have been doing to bring a more accurate assessment of their expenditure needs. We argue that the broad trend across most all countries is for budget controls and procedures to become less complex, and this tendency is observed throughout the assessment of expenditure needs process, including the design of grant formulae. Indeed, perhaps the major trend is to use simpler methods of expenditure needs where rules are clear for every component of the process and for all participants in the process. The consensus also appears to be that traditional budget processes should place a greater emphasis on the outcomes achieved by government spending units and the evaluation of managers and personnel according to these outcomes rather than controlling ex ante expenditure control, and that expenditure needs assessment can help in this process.
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