This report overviews countries fiscal actions in response to COVID-19 and discusses how governments policies should adapt to get ahead of the pandemic and set the stage for a greener, fairer, and more durable recovery. Global vaccination should be scaled up as it can save lives and will eventually pay for itself with stronger employment and economic activity. Until the pandemic is brought under control globally, fiscal policies must remain flexible and supportive, while keeping debt at a manageable level over the long term. Governments also need to adopt comprehensive policies, embedded in medium-term frameworks, to tackle inequalities—especially in access to basic public services—that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and may cause income gaps to persist. Investing in education, healthcare and early childhood development and strengthening social safety nets financed through improved tax capacity and higher progressivity, can strengthen lifetime opportunities, improve trust, and contribute to more social cohesion.
Chapter 1 of the report draws some early lessons from governments’ fiscal responses to the pandemic and provides a roadmap for the recovery. Governments’ measures to cushion the blow from the pandemic total a staggering $12 trillion globally. These lifelines and the worldwide recession have pushed global public debt to an all-time high. But governments should not withdraw lifelines too rapidly. Government support should shift gradually from protecting old jobs to getting people back to work and helping viable but still-vulnerable firms safely reopen. The fiscal measures for the recovery are an opportunity to make the economy more inclusive and greener. Chapter 2 of this report argues that governments need to scale up public investment to ensure successful reopening, boost growth, and prepare economies for the future. Low interest rates make borrowing to invest desirable. Countries that cannot access finance will, however, need to do more with less. The chapter explains how investment can be scaled up while preserving quality. Increasing public investment by 1 percent of GDP in advanced and emerging economies could create 7 million jobs directly, and more than 20 million jobs indirectly. Investments in healthcare, housing, digitalization, and the environment would lay the foundations for a more resilient and inclusive economy.
Chapter 1 argues that fiscal policies are at the forefront of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fiscal measures can save lives, protect the most-affected people and firms from the economic impact of the pandemic, and prevent the health crisis from turning into a deep long-lasting slump. A key priority is to fully accommodate spending on health and emergency services. Global coordination is for a universally low-cost vaccine and to support countries with limited health capacity. Large, temporary and targeted support is urgently needed for affected workers and firms until the emergency abates. As the shutdowns end, broad-based, coordinated fiscal stimulus—where financing conditions permit—will become more effective in fostering the recovery. Chapter 2 argues that fiscal policies are at the forefront of facilitating an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic once the Great Lockdown ends. Policymakers can achieve this objective with IDEAS: Invest for the future—in health systems, infrastructure, low carbon technologies, education, and research; adopt well-planned Discretionary policies that can be deployed quickly; and Enhance Automatic Stabilizers, which are built-in budgetary tax and spending measures that automatically stabilize incomes and consumption. Importantly, improving unemployment benefit systems and social safety nets can protect household incomes from adverse shocks and strengthen resilience against future epidemics. Over the past decade, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have doubled in importance among the world’s largest corporations. They often deliver basic services such as water, electricity, and loans for families and small businesses. At their best, they can help promote higher economic growth and achieve development goals. However, many are a burden to taxpayers and the economy. Chapter 3 discusses what governments can do to get the most out of SOEs. This includes ensuring the firm’s managers have the right incentives and there is effective oversight. It also requires a high degree of transparency of their activities.
Fiscal risks are abating somewhat but remain elevated. In advanced economies, recent policy moves have broadly stabilized public debt ratios, but medium-term prospects are still uncertain, and debt remains at historic highs. Fiscal vulnerabilities are rising in both emerging market economies and low-income countries, although in most cases from relatively moderate levels. Across country groups, fiscal policy should aim at rebuilding policy space while supporting the recovery and long-term growth prospects.
Persistently high debt ratios in advanced economies and emerging fragilities in the developing world cast clouds on the global fiscal landscape. In advanced economies, with narrowing budget deficits, the average public debt ratio is expected to stabilize in 2013–14—but it will be at a historic peak. At the same time, fiscal vulnerabilities are on the rise in emerging market economies and low-income countries—on the back, in emerging market economies, of heightened financial volatility and downward revisions to potential growth, and in low-income countries, of possible shortfalls in commodity prices and aid. Strengthening fiscal balances and buttressing confidence thus remain at the top of the policy agenda. Against that backdrop, this issue explores whether and how tax reform can help strengthen public finances. Taxation is always a sensitive topic and is now more than ever at the center of policy debates around the world. Can countries tax more, better, more fairly? Results reported in this issue show that the scope to raise more revenue is limited in many advanced economies and, where tax ratios are already high, the bulk of the necessary adjustment will have to fall on spending. In emerging market economies and low-income countries, where the potential for raising revenue is often substantial, improving compliance remains a central challenge.
With growth weakening in many parts of the world and downside risks on the rise, fiscal consolidation remains challenging. However, considerable progress has been made in strengthening fiscal accounts following their sharp deterioration in 2008-09. This issue of the Fiscal Monitor takes stock of this progress, focusing on its size, composition, and implications for employment and social equity. The issue finds that most countries--and especially advanced economies--have made significant headway in rolling back fiscal deficits, but that efforts at controlling debt stocks are taking longer to yield results. The mix of revenue and expenditure policies employed by countries with sizable fiscal consolidation needs has differed, with advanced economies in general relying more on spending retrenchment than emerging markets and low-income countries. Both spending and revenue measures have important implications for employment and social equity, the issue finds, and these implications need to be taken into account if the large consolidation efforts underway are to be sustainable.
Overall, fiscal risks remain elevated, according to this issue, although there are signs that in some key respects they are less acute than six months ago. Past efforts with fiscal consolidation are beginning to bear fruit, particularly when buttressed by credible institutional commitments. Nevertheless, debt ratios in many advanced economies are at historical levels and rising, borrowing requirements remain very large, financial markets continue to be in a state of alert, and downside risks to the global economy predominate. In this uncertain environment, the challenge for fiscal policy is to find the right balance between exploiting short-term space to support the fragile recovery and rebuilding longer-term space by advancing fiscal consolidation. Against that background, this issue examines in more detail the concept of fiscal space, or the scope that policymakers have to calibrate the pace of fiscal adjustment without undermining fiscal sustainability. A number of conclusions emerge in regard to countries ongoing vulnerability to unexpected shocks, the potential for substantial negative impacts of fiscal adjustment on activity, possible overstatements of short-term pressures on the public finances in some countries as general government gross debt ratios have risen, the implications of countries having flexibility in the short term but not the longer term, and the monitoring and enforcement challenges raised by second-generation fiscal rules.
With increasing fiscal challenges in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, multilateral surveillance of fiscal developments, a key part of the IMF's surveillance responsibilities, has gained further importance. In response, the Fiscal Monitor was launched in 2009 to survey and analyze the latest public finance developments, update fiscal implications of the crisis and medium-term fiscal projections, and assess policies to put public finances on a sustainable footing. The Fiscal Monitor is prepared twice a year by the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department. Its projections are based on the same database used for the IMF's World Economic Outlook (WEO) and Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR).
With increasing fiscal challenges in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, multilateral surveillance of fiscal developments, a key part of the IMF's surveillance responsibilities, has gained further importance. In response, the Fiscal Monitor was launched in 2009 to survey and analyze the latest public finance developments, update fiscal implications of the crisis and medium-term fiscal projections, and assess policies to put public finances on a sustainable footing. The Fiscal Monitor is prepared twice a year by the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department. The Monitor's projections are based on the same database used for the October 2010 World Economic Outlook (WEO) and Global Financial Stability Report.
With increasing fiscal challenges in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, multilateral surveillance of fiscal developments, a key part of the IMF's surveillance responsibilities, has gained further importance. In response, the Fiscal Monitor was launched in 2009 to survey and analyze the latest public finance developments, update fiscal implications of the crisis and medium-term fiscal projections, and assess policies to put public finances on a sustainable footing. Previous issues of the Monitor were published in the IMF's Staff Position Notes series, but starting with this issue, the Monitor will be a part of the IMF's World Economic and Financial Surveys series, to complement the overviews presented in the World Economic Outlook (WEO) and the Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR). The Fiscal Monitor is prepared twice a year by the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department. The Monitor's projections are based on the same database used for the April 2010 WEO and GFSR. The fiscal projections for individual countries have been prepared by IMF desk economists, and, in line with the WEO guidelines, assume that announced policies will be implemented.