Preliminary Federal Budget Outturn for 1996 Marked by Government Consolidation Program
The preliminary budget outturn for 1996 constitutes an important intermediate step in fiscal consolidation. It shows to what extent both expenditure cuts and additional revenues envisaged for 1996 were actually achieved. From this it may be judged whether the 1996 budget provides a sound base for the Federal government household in 1997 which will serve as the benchmark for successful consolidation and eligibility to participate in the European Monetary Union. Actual expenditure and revenues in 1996 were closely in line with the budget draft. Indeed, the net deficit of ATS 89.4 billion was slightly lower than planned – for the first time since 1991. The deficit/GDP ratio fell from 5 percent in 1995 to 3.7 percent, the cut being achieved to roughly equal extent by expenditure restraint and higher revenues – in line with government intentions. Relevant for the "Maastricht criteria" is not only the Federal government deficit, but also those of the states (Länder) and local communities (Gemeinden). These lower-level territorial authorities, by making their own efforts at improving the general government balance, have not imposed further constraints on the Federations's fiscal room for maneuver. As the Federal government expenditure, the wage and salary bill for active personnel (adjusted for the postal services which were moved off-budget) rose by around 1 percent in 1996. The respective spending limits set in the consolidation "package" were on the whole not exceeded, as overruns in some items were offset by shortfalls in others. Federal retirement benefit expenditure turned out lower than budgeted. However, as for the government transfers to the social security pension scheme, the desired savings were not fully implemented. Net overruns amounted to ATS 1.8 billion, weakening also the prospects for 1997. The objective for the family allowance scheme, i.e. to bring expenditure in line with earmarked revenues, was also not achieved. The Federal government had to pay ATS 0.85 billion in subsidies to cover the deficit. Upward pressure on expenditure slackened not only as a result of discretionary measures, but also for other reasons. Thus, falling interest rates lowered the interest on outstanding debt by around ATS 1 billion vis-à-vis the budget draft. Taxation policy in 1996-97 is shaped by budgetary constraints. Gross tax revenues in 1996 rose by 12.4 percent to a total ATS 585.7 billion, thereby pushing up their ratio to GDP to 24.2 percent, the highest mark since 1992. Apart from the measures included in the consolidation "package" the second stage of the tax reform also had some revenue-raising effect, albeit with a lag. Taxes on enterprises rose strongly (income tax +23.7 percent, corporate tax +50 percent), in line with expectations. Wage tax revenues (+6.8 percent) increased rather more than suggested by the advance of the wage and salary bill, owing to the discretionary consolidation measures. Other tax revenues show no clear pattern of development. Yields from V.A.T. of ATS 204.1 billion, while being pushed up 13.4 percent by special, non-recurring factors, still remained below expectations. Energy tax receipts of ATS 2.0 billion also disappointed somewhat. In all, however, the projection of 1996 tax revenues proved highly accurate, deviating from actual figures by only 0.3 percent. Federal government financial debt increased by some ATS 67 billion in 1996, markedly less than the net deficit (ATS 89.4 billion). This was due partly to some financing having been carried forward into 1995 (around ATS 11 billion), partly to exchange rate gains on foreign-currency debt (roughly ATS 12 billion).
Bundeshaushalt 1996 spiegelt Konsolidierungsmaßnahmen wider; Preliminary Federal Budget Outturn for 1996 Marked by Government Consolidation Program
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