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In economics, austerity is when a national government reduces its spending, to pay back creditors. Austerity is usually required when a government's fiscal deficit spending is felt to be unsustainable.

Development projects, welfare programs and other social spending are common areas of spending for cuts. In many countries, austerity measures have been associated with short-term standard of living declines until economic conditions improved once fiscal balance was achieved (such as in Canada under Jean Chrétien, and Spain under Felipe González).

Private banks, or institutions like the International Monetary Fundmarker (IMF), may require that a country pursues an 'austerity policy' if it wants to re-finance loans that are about to come due. The government may be asked to stop issuing subsidies or to otherwise reduce public spending. When the IMF requires such a policy, the terms are known as 'IMF conditionalities'.

Austerity programs are frequently controversial, as they have an impact on the poorest segments of the population and often lead to a wider separation between the rich and poor. In many situations, austerity programs are imposed on countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that populations are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.

Examples of austerity


  1. Harvey, D (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism
  2. Klein, N. (2007) The Shock Doctrine
  3. Chomsky, N (2004) Hegemony or Survival

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