Statistics on public finances are compiled under the conceptual framework of the European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010), supplemented by the ESA 2010 Manual on government deficit and debt. The national accounts system is built around a sequence of inter-linked flows, relating to various economic and financial transactions over a specific period, and also to balance sheets, which show figures for outstanding assets and liabilities held by the institutional sectors at the beginning and the end of the period under consideration. Government finance statistics, and in particular data concerning the excessive deficit procedure (EDP), form the basis for EU fiscal monitoring.
The non-financial accounts generally tend to emphasise production of goods and services and the revenue generated from such economic activities over a given period. In the case of general government, these accounts are presented in the form of a table that gives all receipts (fiscal, parafiscal and others) on the one hand, and expenditure (current primary expenditure, interest charges and capital expenditure) on the other, without the interim balances being shown. In the accounting sequence, the balance of receipts and expenditure corresponds to the balance on capital account, which is effectively the dividing line between the "real" accounts and the financial account. It is this balance that determines the general government net lending or net borrowing.
The financial accounts indicate the various types of financial instruments used to contract liabilities and/or to acquire financial assets. In the case of general government, most of the time the data will refer to financing transactions in order to cover the budget deficit. But the financial account also explains any shifts in the portfolio's composition of financial assets and liabilities. In Belgium's macroeconomic accounts terminology, the financial accounts cover both the flows (financial transactions) and the claims and liabilities (outstanding financial assets and liabilities). The term financial accounts thus include the financial account proper, the financial balance sheets and the accounts for other changes in financial assets and liabilities.
Excessive deficit procedure (EDP)
The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union obliges EU Member States to comply with budgetary discipline by respecting two criteria: a deficit equivalent to no more than 3% of GDP and a debt-to-GDP ratio not exceeding 60%, as defined in the Protocol on the EDP annexed to the Treaty. These reference values are based on Government Finance Statistics concepts (GFS). The government deficit is the net lending / net borrowing of general government as defined in the European system of accounts (ESA 2010). The government debt is defined as the total consolidated gross debt at nominal value in the following categories of government liabilities: currency and deposits, debt securities and loans.
Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2009 on the application of the Protocol on the excessive deficit procedure annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community, requires the Member States to send Eurostat data concerning the EDP twice a year (end of March and end of September). These data are sent in uniform tables. These tables have been designed with a view to providing a consistent framework for reporting deficits and changes in debt, albeit with a link to national fiscal aggregates.
Council Regulation (EC) No 679/2010 amending Regulation (EC) No 479/2009 as regards the quality of statistical data reinforces Eurostat's powers to monitor data notified by the Member States.
Commission Regulation (EU) No 220/2014 of 7 March 2014 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2009 incorporates references to the European system of national and regional accounts (ESA2010) into the EDF notification as of 1 September 2014.
Government finance statistics
The National Bank of Belgium has traditionally published data on the general government sectors in a specific chapter of the Statistical Bulletin, and the tables are also included in the Public Finance domain of Belgostat Online. Besides the national accounts data for the general government sectors, the tables give the consolidated gross debt of the different sub-sectors as well as official federal Treasury data.
The last few years have seen major developments in government finance statistics, mainly at the instigation of the European authorities in response to requirements voiced by users for a detailed statistical system in the field of public finance. In order to disseminate these data, the European Commission (Eurostat) and the European Central Bank - have developed websites that are accessible to the general public. These distribution media give access to data from the countries of the European Union and the Economic and Monetary Union, to the relevant methodological manuals, and to descriptions of the sources and methods used by the different Member States.
In addition, the Belgian public authorities are committed to respecting the standards set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the publication of macroeconomic statistics (Special Data Dissemination Standard). The statistics are published according to a precise timetable and information about their content and their composition can be accessed. The data and metadata published relate to the national economy and relations with foreign countries. A section is devoted to public finance statistics.
At last, the Council Directive 2011/85/EU of 8 November 2011 on requirements for budgetary frameworks of the Member States requires Member States to publish on a regular basis data on government finance according to the definition of the government sector of the ESA.