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The accuracy of fiscal projections in South Africa


  • Estian Calitz

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Krige Siebrits

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Ian Stuart

    () (Treasury, Government of South Africa)


Forecasting accuracy is important for fiscal policy credibility. Three questions are posed. Firstly, are the forecasts by South Africa’s National Treasury good, compared to those of non-government economists? The paper compares Treasury’s forecasts to non-government projections and to those of other countries and over time. With reference to the mean absolute error and the root mean square error (van der Watt, 2013), it is concluded that nongovernment economists do not necessarily forecast GDP and inflation better than Treasury. Secondly, have the forecasts by National Treasury been good, over time and compared to those of other countries? The forecast error (the final figure minus the budget estimate) is calculated, using data for 2000/01-2010/11. This is most relevant because retrospectively the outcome of fiscal policy is analysed and judged with reference to final figures. National Treasury’s budget forecast errors are found to be significant. Margins of error in forecasting revenue, expenditure and GDP have partially neutralised each other in terms of their impact on the budget balance as a percentage of GDP. Except towards the end of the period, the fiscal balance was better than budgeted. On average and calculated as a percentage of GDP, revenue forecasting inaccuracies made the biggest contribution to inaccurate estimates of the budget balance, but this is largely explained by GDP forecasting inaccuracies. SA fiscal forecasts show a smaller forecast error than that of 14 member countries of the European Union. Thirdly, has the forecasting ability of National Treasury improved over time? A trend line shows higher Treasury forecast errors towards the end of the period and an underestimation bias for GDP and revenue forecasts. A simple example of the dynamics of fiscal politics is presented to demonstrate that a persistent underestimation of revenue could also erode fiscal credibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Estian Calitz & Krige Siebrits & Ian Stuart, 2013. "The accuracy of fiscal projections in South Africa," Working Papers 24/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers200

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Xavier Debrun & David Hauner & Manmohan S. Kumar, 2009. "Independent Fiscal Agencies," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(1), pages 44-81, February.
    2. Estian Calitz & Krige Siebrits & Ian Stuart, 2013. "The accuracy of fiscal projections in South Africa," Working Papers 24/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Charl Jooste & Alfredo Cuevas & Ian C. Stuart & Philippe Burger, 2011. "Fiscal sustainability and the fiscal reaction function for South Africa," IMF Working Papers 11/69, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Robert Hagemann, 2011. "How Can Fiscal Councils Strengthen Fiscal Performance?," OECD Journal: Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2011(1), pages 1-24.
    5. Stan du Plessis & Willem Boshoff, 2007. "A fiscal rule to produce counter-cyclical fiscal policy in South Africa," Working Papers 13/2007, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Estian Calitz & Krige Siebrits & Ian Stuart, 2013. "Enhancing the credibility of fiscal forecasts in South Africa: Is a fiscal council the only way?," Working Papers 25/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Magnus Saxegaard, 2014. "Safe Debt and Uncertainty in Emerging Markets; An Application to South Africa," IMF Working Papers 14/231, International Monetary Fund.

    More about this item


    fiscal policy; fiscal forecasts; fiscal credibility;

    JEL classification:

    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • H61 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Budget; Budget Systems
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus

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