The facts about Greece

gov glanceBill Below, OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development

Government at a Glance 2015, to be published on Monday, offers a dashboard of key indicators to help analyze international comparisons of public sector performance. Given the timing of the release, it seems appropriate to focus this powerful tool on Greece to gain a balanced understanding of Greece’s challenges—and strengths.

Budget balance. While a large number of OECD countries were running primary fiscal deficits, Greece ran a budget surplus of 0.4% of GDP in 2014. If interest payments on the public debt are taken into account, Greece recorded an overall budget deficit of 3.5% of GDP in 2014.

Public spending. Public expenditures dropped considerably since 2009 both in per capita terms and as a share of GDP. In 2014, the Greek government spent annually USD 12,942 per capita (on a purchasing power parity basis) which is about USD 3,700 below the level of per capita public spending in 2009 (USD 16,643). As a share of GDP, general government spending decreased by 4.7 percentage points between 2009 and 2014, from 54.0% of GDP to 49.3%, among the highest decrease over the period.

Public debt. According to the Systems of National Accounts definition, government debt reached 181% of GDP in 2014. This is much higher than the OECD average of 109% of GDP for the latest year available.

Old age pensions accounted for 14.4% of GDP in 2013 or about three quarters of social protection spending which is the highest share among OECD countries.

Structure of government expenditures by selected function: social protection, 2013

Social protection

Sources: OECD National Accounts Statistics (database); Eurostat Government finance statistics (database). Data for the OECD non-European countries (apart from Japan) and for Turkey are not available. Iceland and Spain: 2012

Public sector employment. Between 2009 and 2013, public sector employment decreased by 2.4 percentage points from 19.9% to 17.5% of the total labour force. This is the highest decrease in public sector employment across OECD countries for which data are available. Recent public employment reforms include recruitment freezes, non- or partial replacement of retiring staff, pay freezes and reduction or elimination of allowances in the public sector.

Public procurement. Greece has among the lowest public procurement expenditure in relation to GDP (9.8%). Beyond value for money, countries can use procurement to achieve environmental sustainability, support SMEs and innovation in goods and services. However, more needs to be done to monitor the performance and results of public procurement against the intended objectives, for instance in the area of environmental sustainability.

Citizen satisfaction. Measured through perception-based surveys, satisfaction with institutions and services is low and decreasing, especially for healthcare. In addition, citizen satisfaction with the education system (45%) is below OECD levels (67% in 2014) and confidence in the judicial system has decreased since 2007 to 44% in 2014 which is below the OECD average (54%).

Healthcare needs. More than 16% of low-income individuals reported having some unmet care needs for financial or other reasons in 2013. This is among the highest share across OECD countries.

Government at a Glance 2015 identifies progress and persisting challenges in public sector reform and highlights areas where public sector efficiency might be further improved. It helps countries measure their own achievements in a comparative perspective, showing trends across countries and over time. With this information, countries can benchmark their actions and achievements and better explore the link between governance practices and performance.

For journalists, analysts and the greater public, Government at a Glance 2015 provides an objective, comparative view on the progress of countries as they strive to deliver prosperity, inclusiveness, fairness, well-being and accountability.

Useful links

Government at a Glance 2015 will be published on Monday, July 6. Visit the web site here.

Discover the Government at a Glance 2015 “Every Page Tells a Story” campaign

Want a 12-step guide to better health? Try the “Health at a Glance” quiz

If you’ve ever seen the inside of a doctor’s office, never mind an operating room, you’re probably interested in healthcare. But how much do you actually know? Take this test based on the latest edition of the OECD’s Health at a Glance.

You’ll find all the answers here:

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What’s wrong?

This doesn't come cheap, you know

How many diseases are there? An expert would probably look for the answer in ICD-10, the WHO’s catalogue of over 12,000 calamities that could hit you.

The eponymous hero of Jules Romains’ play Knock, or the Triumph of Medicine would probably have replied that there as many as you can convince people to have. According to him, a healthy person is merely a sick one who doesn’t know it yet.

The ICD can give you that impression too. Some of the characteristics of F60.5 (anankastic personality disorder if you must know) sound more like my job description, and in fact few of my colleagues would escape intact from even a superficial check against sections F60-69, Disorders of Adult Personality and Behaviour. Who hasn’t worked with/for “There may be excessive self-importance, and there is often excessive self-reference”?

According to a special issue of PLoS Medicine, the expansion in the number of diseases these past years is not due to the population becoming sicker or diagnostics getting better. The real reason is “disease mongering” – interested parties creating an all-in-one package of a new treatment and a new condition it can treat, or a new use for an old treatment whose patent is about to expire.

This may play a role in increasing health costs, but the main reasons are that patients expect more from health care systems and that the type of conditions the systems have to treat are changing.

Scanners and other modern imaging techniques are expensive, but are now commonplace, as are sophisticated testing techniques. Many diseases that would once have killed the sufferer can now be treated, but the treatment may last for years. The population is ageing, and more people are living to an age when costly care is needed on a daily basis.

These are postive developments, and investment in health pays dividends. For example, up to 40% of the increase in life expectancy since the early 1990s could be due to increased health spending.

That doesn’t mean that the 9% of GDP an average OECD country devotes to health is all money well spent. Health ministers meeting at the OECD this week will be looking at how to get the best value for money, and ensure that the progress we’ve seen in treating those 12,000 diseases continues. They’ll also be looking at prevention, how to stop us getting them in the first place.

Useful links

OECD work on health

The MRI brain scan is courtesy of Dwayne Reed