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Budgeting versus implementing fiscal policy:the Italian case

Cepparulo, Alessandra and Gastaldi, Francesca and Giuriato, Luisa and Sacchi, Agnese (2011): Budgeting versus implementing fiscal policy:the Italian case.

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The budgeting process has been recently reformed in Italy (L. 196/2009) in order to improve control of budget and transparency in the provision of clear information on government fiscal policy. Indeed, the general government final expenditures often deviate significantly from the initial forecasted amounts. Therefore, although the initial budget is often formulated in contractionary stance compared with the previous year’s final account, the final outcome turns out to be expansionary. As a consequence, confidence in the reliability of expenditure estimates in the initial budget and in the value of the initial budget as an indicator of the stance of fiscal policy have been undermined. Using real-time data for Italy, reported in the Relazione Previsionale e Programmatica (RPP) and in the Relazione Unificata sull’Economia e la Finanza Pubblica (RUEF), we explore fiscal plans and their implementation for GDP and general government aggregated and disaggregated items of revenue, expenditure and budget balance over the period 1998-2009. Both reports are employed with the aim of measuring the budgetary policy implementation error, following the methodology of Beetsma et al. (2009). We focus on the first year of the fiscal plans because budgetary slippages mainly occur in this year (Balassone et al. 2010). The main findings suggest that implemented budgetary adjustment falls systematically short of planned adjustment for GDP, for primary balance and overall balance. Actually, the main determinants of the implementation error of both primary and overall balance are the expenditures, in particular, the capital expenditures. Moreover, it seems that errors in macroeconomic forecasts cannot be considered the driving force of the budgetary slippages. Our results are in line with the strand of literature (von Hagen 1992; von Hagen and Harden 1994; Alesina and Perotti 1999; Tanaka 2003) according to which credible plans are the conditio sine qua non for healthy budget outcomes and resorting fiscal transparency and accountability. To improve public budgeting in Italy, we deem necessary a renewed commitment by policy makers in term of planning and control of public expenditures.

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