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  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Budget consolidation is dominating the political agenda. The Hungarian government has embarked on an ambitious four-year consolidation programme following another election-year peak in the deficit in 2006 at 9.2% of GDP. The immediate revenue increases and spending cuts are temporarily damping growth. However, if all goes according to plan, the programme will bring dividends to the economy in the longer term. This payoff is crucially dependent on: Discipline in budgetary processes. Work needs to continue on strengthening budgetary mechanisms. A system of binding medium-term spending limits should be considered. Budgetary reform also needs to extend to the sub-national governments. Success in maintaining spending freezes. The re-scheduling that brought forward part of the 13th month payment to public-sector workers this year does not affect achievement of the 2007 fiscal target in accrual terms. Nevertheless, looking forward, strong resistance to spending pressures arising from revenue windfalls is of key importance. Implementation of the structural reform programme. The healthcare reforms that are expected to deliver a large share of fiscal savings are reasonably well advanced and a welcome cut in gas-price subsidies is already reducing government spending. The reforms in education are positive but the changes to the tuition–fee system in particular should go further. It is more uncertain, however, whether all the planned cuts in government administration will be realised. Successful reform of public spending requires the participation of the counties and municipal governments. There are potential savings in administrative overheads here too and sub-national governments are responsible for providing many government services. In-depth review of these issues in this Survey reveals a need to: Capture economies of scale. Political constraints preclude widespread mergers among the large number of small municipalities. However, the joint provision of services is widespread and should be encouraged further. Efforts to rationalise through replacement of county-level governments with regional assemblies should continue. Reform financing systems. The financing of sub-national government needs simplification and greater transparency and oversight in accounts. Also, the benchmarking of services via output and performance indicators needs to become more widespread. Reform of local taxation should include widening of property tax and removal of the local business tax. Hungary's low employment rate remains a key structural handicap to economic performance. There has been welcome reform of unemployment benefits and early-retirement pensions. Planned reforms to disability pensions look promising and a concrete proposal for old-age pension reform is in the pipeline. This Survey looks in depth at the issue of prolonged parental leave and other aspects of family policy: Current efforts to boost childcare services are welcome. Future reform needs to consider further strengthening of central-government provision requirements on municipalities regarding these services, matched by appropriate funding. A system of childcare vouchers for parents would be one way of increasing efficiency in the provision of services. Reform to the very long parental leaves should be considered, along with changes to the attendant system of additional cash benefits. Savings could be used to help fund increased childcare services.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Sweden's 1993 Competition Act (CA) remains the foundation of a broad policy approach that includes prohibitions against restrictive agreements and abuse of dominance, control of concentrations, advocacy and support for academic research. Enforcement of this legislation by the Swedish Competition Authority (SCA) marked a shift towards a judicial, rules-based approach.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Sweden
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Economic policy in the euro area pursues the objectives of achieving solid economic growth, a better performance of labour markets and restoring sound public finances in the context of a single monetary policy which aims at maintaining price stability. Although inflation has remained just above the ECB's definition of price stability, longer-term inflation expectations remain firmly anchored to price stability. However, progress towards the other goals has been disappointing thus far partly owing to adverse shocks such as higher oil prices or exchange rate shifts. On unchanged policies and with population ageing the euro area's potential output growth is set to decelerate over the next decades and eventually stabilises at around 1% per annum by about 2020, as illustrated in the following scenario:
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Recent and prospective growth performance is good. The Greek economy has continued to grow vigorously, buoyed especially by low nominal and real interest rates and an expansionary fiscal policy stance, largely reflecting public works in preparation for the Olympic Games in 2004. The outlook is for some slowing activity in the near term, triggered by fiscal consolidation, but a subsequent pick-up in growth thereafter. However, inflation is likely to remain above the euro-area average, to a certain extent eroding Greece's international competitiveness. Fiscal consolidation is the main priority. The fiscal audit, performed by the new government in close collaboration with Eurostat has revealed a very loose fiscal policy since the late 1990s, culminating in a general government deficit of 6% of GDP in 2004. The government debt-to-GDP ratio has remained stubbornly above 100%, despite uninterrupted strong growth during the past eleven years. Reining in government deficits is of vital importance both to meet the fiscal objectives of EMU, and to prepare for demographically-related budget pressures that will start emerging in a decade's time. Moreover, sustained high public debt makes Greece relatively more vulnerable to changes in interest rates and market sentiment, while it's servicing threatens to crowd out public spending in areas important for Greece's ambitions to reach income levels elsewhere in the EU.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Publication Date: 06-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Swedish economy has undergone impressive changes and has delivered a remarkable surge in productivity since the mid-1990s. Consequently, per capita incomes are slowly making up the ground lost in earlier decades. Labour market performance, however, has been less inspiring. Employment rates have yet to recover to their 1990 peaks and hours of work need to increase to support the welfare state.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Sweden
  • Publication Date: 03-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Spanish economy has enjoyed many years of brisk growth and has recovered swiftly from the recent international slowdown. Activity has been boosted by low interest rates and strong job creation, and underpinned by structural reforms and a sound fiscal policy. As a result, the income gap with the euro area steadily narrowed. However, tensions have arisen that could undermine the strong growth performance as inflation is relatively high, eroding competitiveness, while the surge in house prices does not yet show signs of abating. Also productivity gains have remained meagre and unemployment is still high.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Spain
  • Publication Date: 03-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The dominant challenge for Belgium in the years to come is to prepare for population ageing. This entails putting in place policies to attenuate its effects on economic growth and public finances. The few years left before large numbers of baby boomers retire provide a window of opportunity to push ahead with such policies and so preserve the essential elements of the system of social protection. First, further budget consolidation is required to put public finances on a sustainable path. Second, reforms are needed to increase employment rates, especially for the older working age-population, school leavers and ethnic minorities, and to slow the decline in working time. Finally, reforms are required to raise productivity growth.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Deregulating labour markets – for example making it easier for firms to hire and fire employees – is at the heart of the employment debate in many OECD countries. Laws on firing or layoffs and other employment protection regulations are thought by many to be a key factor in generating labour market "rigidity", as well as one reason for the large differences in labour market performance among OECD countries, notably between the United States and some of the larger European countries.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Convergence of the Portuguese economy toward the more advanced OECD economies seems to have halted in recent years, leaving a significant gap in per capita incomes. The proximate cause is low labour productivity, as employment rates across the board are substantially higher than the EU average. Nor is there a shortage of capital goods in aggregate. But capital equipment in the business sector is not always efficiently used or allocated, and new technologies are not readily adopted. Furthermore, the Portuguese labour force – even its younger members – have had less formal education than workers in other EU countries, including among the new entrants from Central and Eastern Europe, and workers in Portugal also have less access to training than in many other countries. Traditional Portuguese low value-added highly labourintensive products now face increasing competition from developing countries and from the new EU entrants.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe