The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. With nearly 300 released each year, working papers cover a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Contingent liabilities have gained prominence in the analysis of public finance. Indeed, history is full of episodes in which the financial position of the public sector is substantially altered-or its true nature uncovered-as a result of government bailouts of financial or nonfinancial entities, in both the private and the public sector. The paper discusses theoretical and practical issues raised by contingent liabilities, including the rationale for taking them on, how to safeguard against the fiscal risks associated with them, how to account and budget for them, and how to disclose them. Country experiences are used to illustrate ways these issues are addressed in practice and challenges faced. The paper also points to good practices related to the mitigation, management and disclosure of risks from contingent liabilities.