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  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: To raise Austria's growth potential, significant changes in the institutional set-up will be necessary in order to achieve sound public finances, higher labour force participation - in particular among older workers - and to open up the sheltered sectors of the economy to healthy competition. Although the government's emphasis on structural spending reductions to achieve eventual budget balance while also creating room for tax cuts is appropriate, earlier fiscal easing means that under current plans budget balance will be restored only after 2007. Such a deficit path is not appropriate given Austria's high debt-to-GDP ratio. Stronger spending restraint will be necessary in order to create room for the major tax reform that the authorities are committed to. Public expenditure reform is focused on reducing public sector employment, but the cost savings are eroded by the generous early retirement programmes used to achieve these employment reductions. Comprehensive public sector reform has to address the complicated -federal fiscal relationships and make sure that tasks are allocated to the most appropriate private or public agent. More cost-benefit analysis and output performance budgeting would help to improve the efficiency with which public resources are used. The pension reform undertaken by the government marks considerable progress in moving to sustainable old-age income replacement through measures designed to increase further the labour force participation rate of older workers and women and lengthen working lives considerably. Further necessary action includes measures to improve the employability of older workers, in particular the elimination of excessive seniority wage components, and a more stringent revision of the remaining age-specific employment protection regulation. The large differences in economic performance between manufacturing, which is fully exposed to international competition, and services points to considerable scope for increasing competition by reducing entry barriers and facilitating the operations of the newly established competition authority. Proceeding along these lines will help Austria to realise the positive potential associated with Eastern enlargement while at the same time becoming more resilient to adverse supply side shocks.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Austria