The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper proposes an approach to setting fiscal policy that factors in the longer-term budgetary pressures that countries face owing, in particular, to population aging and rising health care costs. The approach attempts to overcome the difficulties in evaluating economic trade-offs and social welfare over extended periods. Long-term fiscal projections from the "Intergenerational Report" published as part of the Australian budget in May 2002 are used in a simple model of the Australian economy to illustrate some of the longer-term trade-offs that need to be considered in framing budgets over the medium term. These illustrative simulations, in particular, point out the importance of smoothing fiscal adjustment over time and, hence, the need for careful planning. Smoothing fiscal adjustment, however, raises a new set of questions regarding burden sharing across generations and what costs should be shared.