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Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update 2014

General Fiscal Risks

The remainder of this chapter focuses on the links between the risks to the performance of the economy and the Crown's fiscal position. For more on fiscal risks, see the Specific Fiscal Risks chapter.

Revenue Risks

One of the major sources of risk to the fiscal position arises from the inherent uncertainty about future tax revenue. The amount of tax revenue that the Government receives in a given year is closely linked to the performance of the economy.

Figure 3.9 plots the central tax revenue forecast, along with confidence intervals around these forecasts based on the Treasury's historical tax forecast variances and the assumption of an even balance of risks around the central forecast.[8] The outermost shaded area captures the range ± $7.0 billion in the June 2019 year, within which actual tax outturns are expected to fall 80% of the time.

The tax revenue forecasts from the two scenarios are also shown in Figure 3.9. The 2008/09 global financial crisis showed that exogenous shocks can have severe impacts on government revenue. Should any of the uncertainties outlined in the Economic Riskssection eventuate, government revenue would be different from forecast, with scenarios one and two being examples of possible outcomes.

Figure 3.9 - Core Crown tax revenue uncertaint
Figure 3.9 - Core Crown tax revenue uncertaint   .
Source:  The Treasury

Based on average historical forecast variances and an even balance of risks, Figure 3.9 suggests that tax revenue over the forecast period would be higher than scenario two approximately 46% of the time and lower than scenario one approximately 31% of the time.

There is also uncertainty around government revenue arising from the performance of SOEs and the path of interest rates as outlined in the Fiscal Sensitivities section.

Expenditure Risks

One-off and unexpected expenditure shocks can have a large impact on the Crown's operating balance in the year that they occur. Persistent over-forecasting of expenditure can also have substantial ongoing effects on the fiscal position, along with the uncertainty inherent in forecasting the cost of new policy initiatives.

There is also considerable uncertainty regarding the effect of the performance of the economy on Crown expenditures. This uncertainty relates largely to the operation of the so-called automatic stabilisers. For example, if the economy performs better (worse) than expected in a given year, official expenditures on social programmes may be lower (higher) than planned.

In recent years, earthquakes have underlined the inherent exposure of the Crown's fiscal position to unexpected events. The Government's fiscal position would be affected if another catastrophic earthquake were to occur or if the costs associated with prior events exceed the updated estimates.

The ageing population also presents risks to the medium-term fiscal position, particularly to the extent that demographic forecasts may prove to be too low or high. An ageing population requires increased government expenditure, especially for health and superannuation spending.


  • [8]A full summary of the methodology and critical assumptions is included in Treasury Working Paper 10/08.
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