What is Public Expenditure ? Meaning, Definition
Public expenditure refers to Government expenditure i.e. Government spending. It is incurred by Central, State and Local governments of a country.
Public expenditure can be defined as, "The expenditure incurred by public authorities like central, state and local governments to satisfy the collective social wants of the people is known as public expenditure."
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Throughout the 19th Century, most governments followed laissez faire economic policies & their functions were only restricted to defending aggression & maintaining law & order. The size of pubic expenditure was very small.
But now the expenditure of governments all over has significantly increased. In the early 20th Century, John Maynard Keynes advocated the role of public expenditure in determination of level of income and its distribution.
In developing countries, public expenditure policy not only accelerates economic growth & promotes employment opportunities but also plays a useful role in reducing poverty and inequalities in income distribution.
Classification of Public Expenditure
Classification of Public expenditure refers to the systematic arrangement of different items on which the government incurs expenditure.
Different economists have looked at public expenditure from different point of view. The following classification is a based on these different views.
1. Functional Classification
Some economists classify public expenditure on the basis of functions for which they are incurred. The government performs various functions like defence, social welfare, agriculture, infrastructure and industrial development. The expenditure incurred on such functions fall under this classification. These functions are further divided into subsidiary functions. This kind of classification provides a clear idea about how the public funds are spent.
2. Revenue and Capital Expenditure
Revenue expenditure are current or consumption expenditures incurred on civil administration, defence forces, public health and education, maintenance of government machinery. This type of expenditure is of recurring type which is incurred year after year.
On the other hand, capital expenditures are incurred on building durable assets, like highways, multipurpose dams, irrigation projects, buying machinery and equipment. They are non recurring type of expenditures in the form of capital investments. Such expenditures are expected to improve the productive capacity of the economy.
3. Transfer and Non-Transfer Expenditure
A.C. Pigou, the British economist has classified public expenditure as :-
- Transfer expenditure
- Non-transfer expenditure
Transfer Expenditure :-
Transfer expenditure relates to the expenditure against which there is no corresponding return.
Such expenditure includes public expenditure on :-
- National Old Age Pension Schemes,
- Interest payments,
- Unemployment allowances,
- Welfare benefits to weaker sections, etc.
By incurring such expenditure, the government does not get anything in return, but it adds to the welfare of the people, especially belong to the weaker sections of the society. Such expenditure basically results in redistribution of money incomes within the society.
Non-Transfer Expenditure :-
The non-transfer expenditure relates to expenditure which results in creation of income or output.
The non-transfer expenditure includes development as well as non-development expenditure that results in creation of output directly or indirectly.
- Economic infrastructure such as power, transport, irrigation, etc.
- Social infrastructure such as education, health and family welfare.
- Internal law and order and defence.
- Public administration, etc.
By incurring such expenditure, the government creates a healthy conditions or environment for economic activities. Due to economic growth, the government may be able to generate income in form of duties and taxes.
4.1 Productive and Unproductive Expenditure
This classification was made by Classical economists on the basis of creation of productive capacity.
Productive Expenditure :-
Expenditure on infrastructure development, public enterprises or development of agriculture increase productive capacity in the economy and bring income to the government. Thus they are classified as productive expenditure.
Unproductive Expenditure :-
Expenditures in the nature of consumption such as defence, interest payments, expenditure on law and order, public administration, do not create any productive asset which can bring income or returns to the government. Such expenses are classified as unproductive expenditures.
4.2 Development and Non-Development Expenditure
Modern economists have modified this classification into distinction between development and non-development expenditures.
Development Expenditure :-
All expenditures that promote economic growth and development are termed as development expenditure. These are the same as productive expenditure.
Non-Development Expenditure :-
Unproductive expenditures are termed as non development expenditures.
5. Grants and Purchase Price
This classification has been suggested by economist Hugh Dalton.
Grants are those payments made by a public authority for which their may not be any quid-pro-quo, i.e., there will be no receipt of goods or services. For example, old age pension, unemployment benefits, subsidies, social insurance, etc. Grants are transfer expenditures.
Purchase prices :-
Purchase prices are expenditures for which the government receives goods and services in return. For example, salaries and wages to government employees and purchase of consumption and capital goods.
6. Classification According to Benefits
Public expenditure can be classified on the basis of benefits they confer on different groups of people.
- Common benefits to all : Expenditures that confer common benefits on all the people. For example, expenditure on education, public health, transport, defence, law and order, general administration.
- Special benefits to all : Expenditures that confer special benefits on all. For example, administration of justice, social security measures, community welfare.
- Special benefits to some : Expenditures that confer direct special benefits on certain people and also add to general welfare. For example, old age pension, subsidies to weaker section, unemployment benefits.
7. Hugh Dalton's Classification of Public Expenditure
Hugh Dalton has classified public expenditure as follows :-
- Expenditures on political executives : i.e. maintenance of ceremonial heads of state, like the president.
- Administrative expenditure : to maintain the general administration of the country, like government departments and offices.
- Security expenditure : to maintain armed forces and the police forces.
- Expenditure on administration of justice : include maintenance of courts, judges, public prosecutors.
- Developmental expenditures : to promote growth and development of the economy, like expenditure on infrastructure, irrigation, etc.
- Social expenditures : on public health, community welfare, social security, etc.
- Pubic debt charges : include payment of interest and repayment of principle amount.
Articles On Public Expenditure
- Causes for the Growth of Public Expenditure in India
- Effects of Public Expenditure On Economy
- Wagner's Law of Increasing State Activity