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Central governments in Europe ran out of revenues on December 13 and went into debt to end the year

Media release

Paris, December 12, 2018 : The Institut économique Molinari has calculated the day when European Union (EU) central governments had spent all their annual revenues.

Calendar of days when EU central governments spent the last of their revenues

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- The EU’s central governments exhausted their resources on December 13, 2017, on average, 18 days before year’s end. That’s seven days later than in 2016, marking a significant improvement.
- The EU’s central governments returned in 2017 to the 2007 level of imbalance, with 18 days of unfinanced expenditures. However, there is still some way to go before reaching the near balance of 2000, when there was only one day of unfinanced spending.
- Among the EU’s 28 central governments, nine were in surplus last year, 13 exhausted their resources in December, and six had spent all their revenues by November.
- The French central government had spent all of its resources by November 15, 2017, or 47 days before the end of the latest complete fiscal year. The gap between France and the EU average is 29 days. It remained stable in 2016 and 2017 despite a favourable economic situation.
- The Belgian central government had spent all its resources by December 14, 2017, just under 18 days before the end of the latest complete fiscal year. The gap with the EU went into reverse between 2016 and 2017, making Belgium more virtuous once again than the EU average.


Central government were the main source of public deficits in the EU

Despite the favourable economic situation, central governments remain the dark spot in European public finance. Across the EU, central governments account for most of the slippage in public accounts, with 18 days unfinanced.

The governments of federated states have been in balance since 2017 (with two days’ surplus). Local governments have been in balance (with three days’ surplus last year) since 2014. This has also been true of social security funds (four days’ surplus last year) since 2016.

A three-month gap between central governments with the biggest surplus and the biggest deficit

The champions were Malta (with a surplus equal to 35 days’ spending), Sweden (23-day surplus) and Bulgaria (15-day surplus). Their 2017 revenues enabled them to finance all their expenditures for the year and to pay down their debts. While Sweden has been in the trio with the biggest surpluses for the last three years and Malta for two years, this was not the case with Bulgaria.

Poland, Romania and France bring up the rear. Poland has the most imbalanced position, with its revenues exhausted by November 10, followed by Romania (November 13) and France (November 15). France and Romania are habitual under-performers, with France in the trio of the most imbalanced governments for the last three years and Romania for the last two.

The French central government is in a precarious position

While other EU central governments have used the last eight years to trim their deficits, this has not been observed in France. The post-crisis (2009-2013) rebalancing of accounts ran out of steam sooner than elsewhere, going back five years.

The French central government’s deficit headed back up between 2014 and 2016 at a pace of one additional unfinanced day per year, while EU countries trimmed their deficits by an average of five days per year.

Though France was less of a spendthrift in 2017, it was unable to narrow the gap with the rest of the European Union, recording 29 days of unfinanced spending, in 2016 as in 2017.

This inability to strengthen the public accounts sustainably has not vanished, despite a favourable economic situation.

Worse yet, each phase of « consolidation » seems more precarious than the one before. Between 1999 and 2001, French deficits remained above 30 days per year on average. Between 2004 and 2007, they were 40 days. Between 2013 and 2017, they averaged 50 days.

The Belgian central government’s position is in line with the European average

While the Belgian central government has traditionally been in surplus more than the average among European Union countries, showing greater virtue than the EU average in 83% of its fiscal years since 1995, this was not the case in 2016 : Belgium exhausted its resources 10 days before the EU average.

It was able to move closer to balance in 2017. The Belgian central government exhausted its resources on December 14, one day later than the average among EU countries.


- The study titled « The day when European Union countries ran out of revenues » is available on our website :…
- A European graphic presentation (Datawrapper) is provided here.


Cécile Philippe, President of the Institut économique Molinari (IEM) and co-author :

« In France, the central government lives on credit for 47 days a year. It spends all its resources by November 15, one month earlier than the other European Union governments, which remain in balance until December 13 on average.

« Getting central government accounts back in order should be the priority. On the one hand, local communities and social security funds are in balance. On the other hand, the unhappy experience of our southern neighbours shows that an inability to trim public deficits during an upturn creates exposure to social costs and to painful adjustments when things go into reverse. »

Nicolas Marques, Managing Director of the Institut économique Molinari (IEM) and co-author :

« The French central government’s situation is a cause of serious concern. Since 1980, every budget has been out of balance, and the date when all resources have been spent has moved a day-and-a-quarter earlier each year.

« The government no longer manages to use periods of growth to rebalance its budget. In the last five years, it has exhausted its revenues an average of 50 days before year’s end, while our neighbours have used the upturn to strengthen their public accounts.

« At this stage, there is nothing to stop this drift. The budget that’s now being prepared could generate even greater imbalances, with 67 unfinanced days in 2019, compared to 47 days in 2017. »

Nicolas Marques, Managing Director, Institut économique Molinari
(Paris, in French)
+ 33 6 64 94 80 61
Or Cécile Philippe, Presidente, Institut économique Molinari
(Paris, Brussels, in French or English)
+33 6 78 86 98 58

The Institut économique Molinari (IEM) is a research and education organisation with the mission of promoting individual freedom and responsibility. The Institute aims to facilitate change by spurring debate around preconceived ideas that engender the status quo. It seeks to stimulate the emergence of new consensus positions by offering an economic analysis of public policy, demonstrating the value of dialogue and indicating the benefits of more lenient regulation and taxation. The IEM is a non-profit organisation financed by voluntary contributions from its members : individuals, foundations and businesses. Putting intellectual independence foremost, it accepts no public subsidies.

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