Fiscal adjustment and contingent government liabilities : case studies of the Czech Republic and Macedonia
To control the expansion of government contingent liabilities and reduce fiscal vulnerability, one must be able to identify and measure them. The authors discuss how this may be done and demonstrate how the assessment of fiscal adjustment may change substantially when a broader picture of government liabilities is included. They base their analysis on experience in analyzing fiscal adjustment in the Czech Republic and Macedonia. Their work demonstrates the importance of including contingent liabilities when analyzing fiscal sustainability. To the extent that explicit expenditures are shifted off-budget or replaced by guarantees, the achieved improvement in fiscal balances is overstated. For the Czech Republic, adjustment may have been overstated by some 3 to 4 percent of annual GDP. A stabilization program accompanied by a build-up of contingent liabilities, particularly state guarantees and obligations to cover liabilities emerging from directed credit, may not be sustainable. In Macedonia, the present fiscal equilibrium may be temporary because the stock of existing contingent liabilities could add 2 to 4 percent of GDP to future deficits. And methods used to reduce the"traditional"deficit are unlikely to be sustainable without further modification. The authors conclude that governments: 1) must find better ways to identify and evaluate contingent liabilities arising from the banking system, nonbanking financial institutions, public enterprises, or the contingent and direct liabilities of subnational governments; 2) need to better manage their risks--for example, building adequate reserve funds and hedging risk, where possible; and 3) should examine the implications of the bias toward adding contingent liabilities and develop administrative reform as part of analyzing budget management.
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