Government deficit or surplus is the difference between government receipts (mainly tax revenue) and government spending (i.e. salaries of government employees, social benefits, interest on the public debt) in a single year.

Author: Valentina Pasquali
Project Coordinator: S.J. Yun

A deficit occurs when the outlays of a government exceed the inlays; a surplus is when revenues are higher than expenditure. This ratio is usually presented as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

From the early 1990’s to 2006 most OECD countries had deficits, but by 2007 half of them were in surplus. That year, total deficit for OECD countries was only 1.3% of total OECD GDP. Mainly (but not exclusively) as a result of the Great Recession of 2007-2008, however, budget shortfalls were on the rise again by 2009. In 2012, the overall OECD deficit grew to 5.9%. A situation that is now gradually improving thanks to dedicated efforts of fiscal consolidation by governments across Europe in particular. In fact, total deficit in OECD countries is expected to decrease to 3.2% by 2015.

OECD Survey in Selected Countries:
*Values expressed as a percentage.

Country
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
Australia -5.1 -3.6 -2.9 -1.4 -2.5 -1.4
Austria -4.5 -2.4 -2.6 -1.5 -2.8 -1.3
Belgium -4.0 -4.0 -4.1 -2.7 -2.1 -1.2
Canada -4.9 -3.7 -3.4 -3.0 -2.1 -1.2
Czech Republic -4.7 -3.2 -4.2 -1.5 -2.1 -2.6
Denmark -2.7 -2.0 -3.9 -0.9 -1.5 -3.0
Estonia 0.2 1.1 -0.2 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1
Finland -2.8 -1.0 -2.2 -2.5 -2.2 -0.9
France -7.0 -5.2 -4.9 -4.3 -3.8 -3.1
Germany -4.2 -0.8 0.1 0.0 -0.2 0.2
Greece -11.0 -9.6 -8.9 -12.7 -2.5 -1.4
Hungary -4.4 4.2 -2.2 -2.3 -2.9 -2.9
Iceland -10.1 -5.6 -3.8 -2.1 -2.0 -2.1
Ireland -30.6 -13.0 -8.1 -7.0 -4.7 -3.1
Israel  (1) -4.6 -3.9 -5.1 -4.3 -3.9 -3.6
Italy -4.4 -3.6 -2.9 -2.8 -2.7 -2.1
Japan -8.3 -8.8 -8.7 -9.3 -8.4 -6.7
Korea 1.0 1.0 1.0 -0.4 0.1 0.5
Luxembourg -0.8 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.3 -0.9
Netherlands -5.0 -4.3 -4.0 -2.4 -2.7 -2.0
New Zealand -7.4 -4.4 -2.1 -0.3 0.1 0.7
Norway 11.1 13.6 13.9 11.1 10.7 10.2
Poland -7.8 -5.1 -3.9 -4.3 5.6 -2.9
Portugal -9.9 -4.3 -6.5 -5.0 -4.0 -2.4
Slovak Republic -7.5 -4.8 -4.5 -2.8 -2.7 -2.6
Slovenia -5.9 -6.4 -4.0 -14.7 -4.1 -2.6
Spain -9.6 -9.6 -10.6 -7.1 -5.5 -4.5
Sweden 0.0 0.0 -0.7 -1.3 -1.5 -0.8
Switzerland 0.3 0.7 -0.2 0.1 0.1 0.3
United Kingdom -10.0 -7.9 -6.3 -5.9 -5.3 -4.1
United States -12.2 -10.7 -9.3 -6.4 -5.8 -4.6
Euro area (15 countries) -6.2 -4.1 -3.7 -3.0 -2.5 -1.8
OECD-Total -8.0 -6.5 -5.9 -4.6 -3.9 -3.2
Brazil -2.5 -2.6 -2.5 -3.3 -3.4 -3.1
China -0.7 0.1 -0.3 -0.7 -1.2 -1.2
India -7.4 -7.4 -7.5 -7.1 -6.5 -5.9
Indonesia -0.7 -1.1 -1.9 -2.2 -2.2 -2.0
Russian Federation -1.2 4.2 0.5 -0.5 0.0 0.2
South Africa -6.0 -5.6 -6.2 -6.1 -5.8 -5.5

Note: For more information, see OECD Economic Outlook Sources and Methods

 

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