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15 May 2019
Results and management
The Cour des comptes has presented its report on the Central Government
budget for 2018, as well as 66 budget execution analyses carried out, in
particular by mission and by programme.
In 2018, execution of the budget was better controlled than in previous years,
notably thanks to a more realistic expenditure schedule. Despite higher than
expected revenue, the Central Government deficit nevertheless grew, as a result
of tax cuts and spending which continued to increase, albeit at a slow pace,
particularly with regard to the wage bill. The Central Government deficit thus
diverged from that of all public administrations, highlighting its particular place
among them.
The ever-increasing complexity of the Central Government
’s budgetary
framework, which is also insufficient and unstable, hinders the analysis of
expenditure and its effectiveness, particularly given the scale of tax expenditure
and the growing use of funds without legal personality. The performance-based
approach, the results of which have been disappointing, needs to be
reformulated in order to improve expenditure efficiency.
Results of the 2018 budget execution
For the first time since 2014, after three years of virtual stability, the Central Government
budget deficit increased from
67.7 billion in 2017 to
76.0 billion in 2018. It represented
23.4% of net expenditure in the general budget (compared with 21% in 2017), exceeding
the revenue generated from personal income tax (
73 billion) and expenditure by the
department for
School Education
71.6 billion).
The Central Government deficit in national accounting reached 3 GDP points and
Central Government debt continued to rise, in contrast to the situation recorded for all
public administrations, for which the deficit fell (
59.6 billion, or 2.5 GDP points), in
particular on account of the surplus generated for the second year running through
social security (
10.7 billion, or 0.5 GDP points). These divergent trajectories highlight
the particular role played by Central Government among the public administrations. In
effect, it offset reductions in the mandatory levies it imposed on local authorities and
social security. It therefore bore most of the net cost of the reduction in the levies it
implemented, as well as the interest burden of nearly 80% of the public debt.
The evolution of income and expenditure
The Central G
net tax revenues fell slightly compared to 2017, with
significant tax reductions (-
16.5 billion), decided in 2018 or earlier, offsetting the
spontaneous evolution of tax revenue, which remained strong in 2018.
contribution to the European Union increased by
4.3 billion, while the reduction in the
levy earmarked for local authorities (-
3.5 billion) was more than offset by the allocation
of VAT to the regions, with payments to local authorities exceeding their 2014 levels for
the first time.
The execution of expenditure was close to the schedule set in the Initial Finance Act
and new expenditure standards were respected. Under-budgeting was limited to
1.5 billion in 2018 compared with
4.4 billion in 2017. The reserve rate was
substantially reduced on non-payroll credits, down from 8% in 2017 to 3% in 2018, and
additional ongoing freezes were moderate. The increase in general budget expenditure
was limited to 0.3% on a like-for-like basis, a much smaller increase than in 2017
(+3.2%), however the wage bill increased by 2%, despite the workforce remaining
A complex and unclear Central Government budgetary framework
and a performance-based approach to be reformulated
The scope of general budget expenditure does not represent a comprehensive and
coherent picture of Central Government expenditure, which forms a heterogeneous,
unclear and unstable whole. Furthermore, budget allocations only reflect part of the
funding of some public policies, which is also provided through tax expenditure, the
allocation of ear-marked accounts, the assignment of tax to operators and the growing
use of funds without legal personality. Such circumventions undermine the coherence
of the budgetary framework and limit
Parliament’s ability
to comprehensively grasp the
financial issues associated with the actions of Central Government, particularly over the
long term.
The performance-based approach introduced by the
aimed to move away from
resource-based management towards results-based management. Its results were
disappointing overall: the performance information produced, which is excessive and
often not suited to assessing the effectiveness of public policies, is seldom used by
Parliament and not sufficiently known to the general public. It has only a marginal
influence on the allocation of resources. The approach needs to be clarified by
distinguishing between policy- and management-level objectives, and form part of a
more global environment that is conducive to efficient expenditure, with greater
managerial accountability, and the regular implementation of expenditure reviews or
public policy evaluations.
Read the report and analyses of the budget execution
New French budgetary framework introduced in 2001
Ted Marx
Communications Director
T +33 (
0)1 42 98 55 62
Denis Gettliffe
Media Relations Manager
T +33 (
0)1 42 98 55 77
Cour des comptes