GFOA's International Relations Program

By Leithe, Joni | Government Finance Review, August 1994 | Go to article overview

GFOA's International Relations Program


Leithe, Joni, Government Finance Review


Squeezing more service out of fewer tax dollars, decentralizing budgetary authority, and privatizing and contracting out programs are some of the latest local government reforms underway in Sweden. Governments in Israel also are concerned with cutting costs. Sweden and Israel?

As the GFOA International Relations Committee is finding, local governments in the United States and Canada share many of the same issues and concerns as local governments in other countries. Since last profiled in the February 1992 issue of Government Finance Review, the GFOA's International Relations Committee has been working to establish and maintain contacts with counterpart associations overseas. It has adopted the following set of objectives to guide its activities over the next several years:

* create institutional linkages, such as the establishment of affiliation agreements with counterpart associations abroad to share information and resources by promoting cross-national membership in one another's associations where appropriate;

* promote educational exchanges via increased international participation at the GFOA annual conference and representation of the GFOA at others' conferences, by offering sessions dealing with other countries and timely international topics at GFOA conferences, and by publishing articles on international topics;

* continue to offer technical assistance and training to newly emerging democracies and Third World countries.

Attending the 1994 GFOA conference held June 5-8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, were participants from Bermuda, Hungary, Israel, Poland, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On their behalf, GFOA organized an orientation and program of preconference activities that included a lecture on U.S. state and local government by Minnesota's finance commissioner and half-day site visits to the City of Maple Grove and Hennepin County, Minnesota.

International delegates made important contributions to the conference program by speaking at concurrent sessions on worldwide trends in infrastructure financing and on local government finance in their countries. International topics at previous conferences have included international trade and export promotion, buying and selling securities in foreign markets, and local government organization in their countries. Also featured at the conference this year was a roundtable discussion on international exchange opportunities, providing a forum for GFOA members to discuss opportunities for meeting their overseas counterparts and for providing technical assistance in developing countries and emerging democracies.

Another highlight of the international program at the 1994 annual conference was the GFOA's entering into affiliation agreements of friendship and cooperation with the Union of Municipal Treasurers in Israel and two Swedish associations: the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and the Swedish Association of Local Government Economists. Such alliances are expected to be viable and valuable because these countries, when their financial structures and their government associations are examined, do not seem as separate from GFOA-member jurisdictions as their physical boundaries might imply. The following overviews of Sweden's and Israel's governments and public finance associations are summarized from presentations made by delegates at the conference.

Sweden

Located in northwestern Europe between the countries of Norway and Finland, Sweden has an area of 174,000 square miles, similar to the size of California or Spain. Half of its surface is covered with forest, and there are more than 100,000 lakes. It is relatively flat except for a long mountain chain in the northwest which reaches heights of 6,946 feet. Although Sweden is at the latitude of Greenland, the citizens enjoy a much warmer climate, due to the influence of the gulf stream. Average temperatures in the capital city of Stockholm are 64 degrees Fahrenheit in July and slightly below freezing with moderate snowfall in winter. …

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