This paper examines empirically how transparency of the budget process affects fiscal rules and incentives for fiscal gimmickry or creative accounting in the European Union. Using stock-flow adjustment data for EU countries from 1990–2007, we show that pressure from a deficit limit rule as in the Stability and Growth Pact creates incentives for fiscal gimmicks, as does political pressure from the electoral cycle and economic pressure from negative shocks in the business cycle. However, we show that where institutional transparency is higher, these incentives are damped and largely disappear. We infer that fiscal rules do not work well when institutional transparency is low.
The paper investigates the effects of checks and balances on corruption. Within a presidential system, effective separation of powers is achieved under divided government, with the executive and legislative branches being controlled by different political parties. When government is unified, no effective separation exists even within a presidential system, but, we argue, can be partially restored by having an accountable judiciary. Our empirical findings show that divided government and elected, rather than appointed, state supreme court judges are associated with lower corruption and, furthermore, that the effect of an accountable judiciary is stronger under unified government, where government cannot control itself.