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The questionnaire on numerical fiscal rules

In order to collect the most comprehensive and accurate information on the existing numerical fiscal rules in the EU, a questionnaire was sent to all EU Member States in the context of the Working Group on the Quality of Public Finances (WGQPF) attached to the Economic Policy Committee (EPC). The questionnaire covers all types of numerical fiscal rules such as budget balance rules including golden rules, debt rules, expenditure rules and rules concerning the revenue side of the budget. Member States were invited to fill out one questionnaire per fiscal rule. The questionnaire considers rules applied to all levels of government. The first round of the survey took place in 2006. The time frame covered by this first survey was the period from 1990 to 2005. Member States were invited to signal changes in their definition and/or contents during the period under review. Likewise, Member States were also requested to fill out the questionnaire for those fiscal rules that had prevailed for a certain period between 1990 and 2005. Updates of the survey were conducted in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The survey is divided into 8 sections:

1. Description of the rule. This section requires Member States to provide information on the general characteristics of the rule (targeted variable, coverage), the motivations for its introduction, and the relevant dates of introduction, entering into force and major reform.

2. Coverage and target definition. This section includes questions concerning the sectors and the time span (annual / multiannual) covered by the rule. This section also deals with the specification of the targeted aggregate (definition of the variable and accounting system in which it is expressed, exclusions from the coverage of the rule, ratios vs. level and growth rates, aggregates defined in nominal vs. real term).

3. Statutory base of the rule. This section allows to make a distinction between rules based on political commitments (coalition agreements, agreement reached by different levels of government), and those based on legal acts (law, constitution).

4. Monitoring of compliance with the rule. This section requests information on the body responsible for the monitoring of the rule. Answers provided by Member States give important indications on whether the rule is monitored by a partisan or a non-partisan institution and whether monitoring of compliance with the rule is ensured in real time or only ex post.

5. Enforcement of compliance with the rule. This section contains questions related to the body in charge of ensuring enforcement of the rule (partisan vs. non-partisan) and the description of actions in case of non-compliance (obligation to propose corrective measures for the relevant authority, automatic correction mechanisms, possibility of imposing sanctions, existence of well-defined escape clauses).

6. Media visibility of the rule. This section focuses on media and public reaction to non-compliance with the rule.

7. Compliance with the rule in the previous year.  This section of the questionnaire asks questions related to last exercise compliance with the rule, and to the reasons for possible non-compliance with the rule.

8. Long-term impact of the rule. Section 8 asks questions related to the track record in terms of compliance with the rule since it entered into force. The direct impact of the rule on debt level, budget balance, expenditure and revenues level is then assessed. The section also contains subjective questions related to the perception on whether the rule has contributed to fiscal discipline.


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