IMF highlights Brazil’s fiscal transparency shortfalls

4 May 17

Patchy transparency in Brazil has compromised the effectiveness of the country’s fiscal policies, according to the International Monetary Fund.



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In an assessment of the country’s fiscal transparency, published yesterday, the IMF said Brazil had an incomplete picture of its fiscal situation, with the public sector deficit and liabilities significantly larger once these gaps were filled in.

Doing so would require a broadening of Brazil’s fiscal reports and the use of a number of accrual-based accounting concepts.

Currently, the fund’s report concluded that incomplete information, accounting changes and a lack of clarity meant the country’s reporting failed to capture the true state of the public finances.

This, it continued, undermined the country’s efforts to stick to its fiscal rules, which include limits in areas like spending and debt.

One issue highlighted was that Brazil’s fiscal reports did not cover the entire public sector, which includes, for instance, state-owned enterprises.

Adding national oil and electricity companies Petrobras and Eletrobras into the accounts would have increased Brazil’s deficit in 2014 – the first it had posted in over a decade – by around 1.3% of GDP.

The fund added that treatment of pensions and instruments like public-private partnerships in the Brazilian accounts also raises some “difficult questions” – an observation true for numerous countries around the world, especially with regards to pensions.

Including these would have pushed the 2014 public sector deficit up to 11.6% of GDP. Similarly, accounting for the pension liabilities of private sector workers would decrease the 2014 net worth of Brazil’s public sector to -209% of GDP.

Brazil’s public sector net worth is already much lower than that of other resource-rich countries, but greater transparency didn’t always mean worse figures.

The IMF pointed out that bringing Brazil’s public sector balance sheet in line with international standards, which would entail including currently unrecognised “subsoil assets” like oil, copper or gold, would improve Brazil’s net worth by 33%. 

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