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Sonia Bussu and Maria Tullia Galanti

In 2014, Italian local government was affected by two key events: the passage of the Delrio law, which drastically reforms areabased government (i.e., provinces, municipal unions, and metropolitan cities) in the expectation that future constitutional reform will eliminate provinces entirely, and the rationalization program drawn up by Carlo Cottarelli, the special commissioner for the review of expenditure, which has profoundly affected the role of local authorities in owning and operating public utilities companies. This chapter traces the processes that led to these two reforms and, in doing so, elucidates the factors that motivated each reform.

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David Hine

Economics and finance ministries are among the most important

departments of modern governments. Their overall purpose is to

plan, finance, and co-ordinate public expenditure along a sustainable

long-term trajectory. That role has several dimensions: assessing

departmental spending proposals; ensuring that spending delivers

value; delivering financial resources to meet spending; maintaining

a sustainable balance between fiscal revenues, asset disposals, and

borrowing; managing financial flows across a fiscal year; and ensuring

that these processes are compatible with sectoral policies and

with overall economic targets. The authority to do all this depends

on complex factors: the political backing the ministry gets from other

parts of the government from the prime minister down; the status of

the minister in charge; the compliance of the legislature and of subnational

authorities; the effectiveness of the fiscal, forecasting, authorization,

and inspection machinery; and the ministry’s own capacity

to develop, modernize, and improve the planning and management of

public expenditure programs generally.

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Convergence in Social Welfare Systems

From Evidence to Explanations

Denis Bouget

After the Second World War, the view that people of every nation would be entitled to experience rising standards of living pervaded all corners of the globe. Convergence was seen as a positive way of achieving a Golden Age and a peaceful and affluent utopia, through modernisation and technical progress. Within this general belief, the development of national social welfare systems in Europe in the postwar period appears to be the outcome of autonomous national processes. The construction of Europe, which imposed common rules in many areas, was nonetheless consistent with the national development of social welfare systems within each national culture. The idea of a common system of social protection has always been linked to European political and economic construction, which was expected to create a more cohesive society. Reference is made constantly to convergence as a catching-up process in the comparative evaluation of national social policies, but the implementation of an ambitious European system of social protection and the creation of harmonised national welfare systems have always proved to be impossible. The paper focuses on two specific topics. Firstly, it examines attempts to quantify convergence among EU and OECD countries at the macro-economic level, using social indicators to assess the convergence or divergence of social expenditure. The evidence of convergence is shown to be ambiguous due to a number of methodological problems. Secondly, two main interpretations of convergence are examined: economic forces and legal frameworks. The paper shows that the analysis of national trajectories of social expenditure and the link with economic development can enrich the analysis of convergence or divergence in social protection. Even if the maturation or reform of national social policies explains the origins of increases in social expenditure, macro-economic pressures, or constraints (globalisation, Single Market), on public expenditure can fuel certain type of convergence. In all the developed countries, social welfare systems are based on national legal frameworks. A goal of social Europe is not only to work towards European solidarity but also to build common social rights throughout Europe. Convergence of national social welfare systems can, therefore, be interpreted as a component in a general process of convergence in law within the developed countries, especially within Europe. However, common explanations of convergence in social welfare systems often neglect elements of divergence. They, therefore, conceal the complexity of the process and very often underestimate the full extent of divergence.