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 explains why EMU countries seem unable or unwilling to undertake structural reforms of public expenditure. One of the reasons is political. What public expenditure reforms might be pursued without changing the political system? Without political reforms, technical improvements made to increase budget transparency, such as strengthening budget procedure, integrating accrual into cash accounting, and removing accounting gimmicks, could indirectly affect reforms of public expenditure. Removing gimmicks and helping prevent the emergence of new creative accounting techniques may be a partial substitue for political reforms. Implementation of the Growth and Stability Pact should be dynamically consistent with budgetary transparency. Although other EMU countries resorted as well to budgetary gimmicks to bypass difficult fiscal constraints, the Italian case is used as a reference to clarify these issues. Transparency may help discourage the use of gim micks.