How to plug budget holes by managing public wealth better

PROPONENTS OF sovereign-wealth funds like to say that returns from publicly owned assets could in theory displace taxes. In countries that have not struck oil, however, the chance of politicians building up savings rather than running up debt seems remote. Yet states may not need to save in order to enable at least some tax-free spending. Most already have plenty of assets. The problem is that they do not sweat them hard enough.

Most public wealth falls into one of four categories: land and natural resources; property and infrastructure, such as ports and roads; public firms, such as utilities and state-owned airlines; and financial assets like those held by public pension funds. In estimates covering 31 economies released on October 10th, the IMF put the total stash at $101trn, or 219% of GDP.

The Fund’s estimates of governments’ assets and liabilities cast their fiscal health in a new light (see chart). Several...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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