Study on Quality of Public Finances in Support of Growth in the Mediterranean Partner Countries of the EU
Until the early 1990s, the discussions on fiscal policy primarily centered on the functions of economic stabilization, income redistribution and resource allocation. Long-term growth was not usually viewed as an end itself, and fiscal policy was often not sufficiently tailored to the different circumstances and priorities of countries at different stages of development. It is only relatively recently that the discussion has gradually focused on the links between different dimensions of quality of public finances and economic growth. Based on the conceptual framework for linking the quality of public finances and economic growth that has been developed by the European Commission and applied to the EU Member States, this study examines the conditions under which the budgetary policy, and more specifically expenditure, revenue and financing design would be supportive of growth in the Mediterranean partner countries of the European Union. The study also highlights some of the interlinkages between fiscal policy and growth and summarises empirical findings found in the literature with particular focus on Mediterranean partner countries of the European Union. The main findings of the study are similar to those that apply to the EU Member States and can be summarised as follows: • The way government expenditures are financed matters. Deficit and debt financing clearly undermines growth performance. • The composition of expenditure does matter however the efficiency of the expenditure undertaken is even more important for growth. For countries with good governance indicators the positive impact of the productive expenditures on growth was enhanced. The analysis was applied to the efficiency of education and health expenditures with basically similar results. • Notwithstanding the importance of 'fair' income distribution, when tax policy relies heavily on income taxation to do so, the analysis suggests a likely negative effect on growth. Specifically, consumption taxes were found to depress growth by up to four times less than income taxes. The study concludes by highlighting possible areas in the planning and execution of fiscal policy and governance where growth enhancing interventions can be applied.
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