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Uruguay: Fiscal Policy
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Economic Policy > Fiscal Policy


The civilian government that entered office in 1985 faced a severe fiscal problem: the chronic public-sector deficit. It also faced a broader difficulty: an economy in deep recession. Thedeficit was believed to be perpetuating inflation. Inflation, in turn, prevented the economy from reaching a stable position conducive to renewed growth. Thus, the priorities of the Sanguinetti administration's economic plan -- devised in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund -- were to reduce the deficit, bring down inflation, and improve the balance of payments.

These multiyear fiscal measures were considered essential for renewed growth, but the serious consequences of the recession called for immediate action to spur economic activity. Between 1981 and 1984, the recession had taken its toll on all sectors of the economy. GDP had declined by almost 17 percent; agricultural production by 12 percent; manufacturing by 21 percent; construction by 48 percent; and capital formation (investment) by 56 percent. Workers were especially hard-hit by the decline. Between November 1982 and March 1985, real salaries fell by 19 percent. In real terms, workers only earned half of what they had earned in 1968, and unemployment had increased to 13 percent. Unable to ignore these signs of distress, the Sanguinetti administration also adopted an economic growth policy.

Initially, the stabilization effort took precedence over efforts to boost economic activity. The idea was to break the inflationary momentum of the economy first and restore growth second. In fiscal terms, the goal was to reduce the public-sector deficit from 10 percent of GDP in mid-1985 to 5 percent of GDP by 1986. The scope of government involvement in the Uruguayan economy meant that the public-sector deficit had to be attacked on three fronts: the central government, by reducing expenditures and increasing revenues; the Central Bank of Uruguay, which accounted for about half of the deficit; and the state enterprises, many of which had run small deficits through most of the 1980s.

The results of the stabilization effort were ambiguous. On the one hand, the Sanguinetti government easily reached its fiscal targets. During its first two years in office, the government enacted tax increases that raised real government revenues by 58 percent. Meanwhile, real expenditures increased by only 43 percent. As a result, the public-sector deficit declined to about 3percent of GDP, better than the government had planned. Simultaneously, however, inflation -- the underlying target of the government's fiscal policy -- hardly slowed at all. Inflation went from an annual rate of 72 percent in 1985 to 57 percent in 1987, but it increased to 85 percent in 1989. The persistence of inflation in the face of fiscal restraint did not reflect a failure of the Sanguinetti government's fiscal policy; rather, inflation persisted because of the government's monetary and exchange-rate policies, the instruments it used to promote economic growth.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Uruguay was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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