Irwin, Timothy Cressey
Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund
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Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund
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Last updated January 31, 2023
Tim Irwin worked at the World Bank from 1995 to 2008, on among other things the regulation of utilities and the link between public financial management and privately financed infrastructure projects.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-03) Easterly, William ; Irwin, Timothy ; Servén, LuisFiscal adjustment becomes like walking up the down escalator when growth-promoting spending is cut so much as to lower growth and thus the present value of future tax revenues to a degree that more than offsets the improvement in the cash deficit. Although short-term cash flows matter, a preponderant focus on them encourages governments to invest too little. Cash flow targets also encourage governments to shift investment spending off budget, by seeking private investment in public projects-irrespective of its real fiscal or economic benefits. To evade the action of cash flow targets, some have suggested excluding from their scope certain investments (such as those undertaken by public enterprises deemed commercial or financed by multilaterals). These stopgap remedies might sometimes help protect investment, but they do not provide a satisfactory solution to the underlying problem. Governments can more effectively reduce the biases created by the focus on short-term cash flows by developing indicators of the long-term fiscal effects of their decisions, including accounting and economic measures of net worth, and where appropriate including such measures in fiscal targets or even fiscal rules, replacing the exclusive focus on liquidity and debt.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 1997-02) Irwin, TimothyGovernments often regulate not only the overall level of prices charged by infrastructure firms but also the relationship between prices for different services or customers. Prices can differ among different types of customers, even when no customers can be said to be subsidizing another, for example, when one asset is used to supply a service to two or more groups of customers. One of the hurdles that governments must overcome in introducing competition in infrastructure is dealing with the social and political implications of changing price structures, or rate rebalancing. Generally, competition should reduce overall costs in the sector, lessening the need to compensate groups hurt by price increases resulting from rate rebalancing. But if the efficiency gains are not enough to offset the price increases for some groups and the government is worried about the political and social costs of rate balancing, it has three basic options: 1) preserving the old price structure; 2) funding price subsidies from general tax revenue rather than from transfers within the firm or industry; and 3) relying on social safety nets rather than price subsidies. Whichever option a government chooses should stand up against the following four tests: 1) Do subsidies reach the people the government most wants to support? 2) are the costs clear and measurable? 3) Are the administrative costs as low as possible? 4) Is the revenue raised from the source that entails the least cost to the economy? This Note looks at the three options in practice and reviews how they measure up against the four criteria. It concludes that governments should eliminate price subsidies if politically feasible. But even if they cannot, they can still reap the benefits of competition.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 1996-10) Irwin, Timothy ; Alexander, IanThe authors propose a number of privatization rules to ensure that management will improve after privatization. Governments should ensure that the privatized sector has several firms operating in industries that are local natural monopolies, so that if one operator goes bankrupt, another can readily take over. Governments should also permit concentrated ownership and foreign ownership, and profits should not be guaranteed through regulation.
Managing Contingent Liabilities in Public-Private Partnerships: Practice in Australia, Chile, and South Africa(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010) Irwin, Timothy ; Mokdad, TanyaContingent liabilities create management problems for governments. They have a cost, but judging what the cost is and whether it is worth incurring is difficult. Except in the case of contingent liabilities created by simple guarantees of debt, governments usually can incur contingent liabilities without budgetary approval or recognition in the governments accounts. So governments may prefer contingent liabilities to other obligations. (The uncertainty surrounding contingent liabilities can work differently. It is well known that PPPs create contingent liabilities, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and others often warn of the risks. The initial reaction of a cautious Ministry of Finance may be to seek to avoid all contingent liabilities.) Management problems also arise once a government has incurred a contingent liability. Projects need to be monitored to reduce risks if possible. Spending on contingent liabilities must sometimes be forecast, despite the difficulty.
Power to the Fiscal? An Exploration of the Use of Credit Ratings to Estimate the Expected Cost of a Guarantee of a Power-Purchase Agreement(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-06) Aslan, Cigdem ; Irwin, TimMinistries of finance are often asked to guarantee a state-owned electricity utility's payments to an independent power producer under a power-purchase agreement. To decide whether to grant the guarantee, the ministry should have at least a rough estimate of the guarantee's expected cost. Making use of an analogy between a power-purchase agreement and a debt contract, this paper shows how the ministry can get such an estimate by applying a method developed to estimate the expected cost of debt guarantees. An estimate of the probability of the utility's not being able to meet its obligations under the power-purchase agreement can be derived from the utility's actual or estimated credit rating in the absence of government support. The government's expected payments under the guarantee can then be estimated by multiplying the utility's payments under the power-purchase agreement by this probability. The estimates produced by the method will be imprecise, but the method may be easier to apply than alternative methods, and an imprecise estimate may be better for policy makers than no estimate.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2007) Budina, Nina ; Polackova Brixi, Hana ; Irwin, TimothyPublic-private partnerships (PPPs) operate at the boundary of the public and private sectors, being neither fully public nor fully private. PPPs are defined in this paper as privately financed infrastructure projects in which a private firm either: (i) sells its services to the government; or (ii) sells its services to third parties with significant fiscal support in the form of guarantees. Despite these common elements of PPPs across sectors, there are differences in the type of arrangements that are typical in each sector. This study focuses on whether and when using PPPs can create fiscal space for additional infrastructure investments in the EU8. In doing so, the paper will examine the fiscal risks of PPPs and the role of fiscal institutions in this regard, including how these affect the use and design of PPPs and thus the potential for creating fiscal space while promoting investment in infrastructure. Chapter 2 distinguishes the illusory from the real fiscal effects of PPPs. Chapter 3 relates the extent to which PPPs reduce fiscal costs to the nature of fiscal institutions. Chapter 4 explains how fiscal institutions can be improved to encourage fiscal prudence in the use and design of PPPs. Chapter 5 concludes.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-05) Razlog, Lilia ; Irwin, Tim ; Marrison, ChrisManaging government debt guarantees is difficult because the potential costs of guarantees are hard to estimate and typically do not show up in the reported budget deficit. A good framework for managing guarantees can, however, help governments overcome the difficulty and enhance the transparency of guarantees. This paper sets out a checklist of issues for a government to consider when designing or revisiting its framework for managing guarantees. The checklist comprises: (1) steps to establish macroeconomic control over guarantees by setting limits on their use and restricting the authorization to grant them; (2) steps to improve decisions to grant individual guarantees by means of guidelines, restrictions, conditions, cost estimation, guarantees fees, and a structured process for making the decisions; and (3) steps to ensure careful management after the granting of guarantees, including the recording and reporting of guarantees, arrangements to pay when necessary, and learning from past experience.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-05) Razlog, Lilia ; Marrison, Chris ; Irwin, TimCentral to making good decisions about debt guarantees is assessing their expected and possible fiscal cost, a task that many governments still struggle with. This paper therefore describes a relatively simple scenario analysis method for estimating potential payments from the government when a beneficiary faces difficulty with debt payments. The basic version of the approach estimates the payments in a given scenario to inform risk management decisions. The paper then extends the method for situations where more rigor is required or where the economic guarantee fee is to be estimated. The final part of the paper extends the method to assess the combined loss of multiple guarantees when simultaneously subjected to negative economic conditions.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-08) Kikoni, Edith ; Madzarevic-Sujster, Sanja ; Irwin, Tim ; Jooste, CharlPolicy toward fiscal rules is an important issue in the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia). According to a rough estimate, the countries with rules (all but North Macedonia) have complied with their debt and overall-deficit rules a little more than half the time. An online survey, conducted for this paper, suggests that public understanding of the rules is limited, which may reduce the political pressure for compliance. To get debt down to prudent levels, Albania and Montenegro will need a strong commitment to complying with their fiscal rules and will often have to do more than their deficit rules require. The following principles should guide future policy toward fiscal rules: more emphasis should be given to ensuring that fiscal rules are widely understood and enjoy the support of a broad range of stakeholders; policy toward the rules should be consistent with accession to the European Union, but the rules should be simpler than the European Union's and the debt limits lower; limits in rules should not be mistaken for targets; and public financial management should be improved to support the implementation of rules.