The main functions of government are the provision of non-market services, the regulation of economic and social conditions, and the redistribution of income between sections of the community. These activities are primarily financed by taxation and are carried out by entities in the general government sector. In addition to this core activity, governments can also own or control enterprises that sell goods or services to the public and which operate largely on a commercial (or market) basis (public non-financial corporations) or engage in financial intermediation (public financial corporations).
The term 'government finance statistics' refers to statistics that measure the financial activities of governments of all levels and reflect the impact of those activities on other sectors of the economy. The Australian system of Government Finance Statistics (GFS), which is used to derive the statistics presented in Government finance, is designed to provide statistical information on public sector entities in Australia classified in a uniform and systematic way.
The public sector comprises general government entities and public financial and public non-financial corporations. These entities are described in the next section. This is followed by an outline of the roles of the different levels of government and a description of the GFS classifications.
GFS enables policy makers and users to analyse the financial operations and financial position of the public sector at either the level of a specific government, institutional sector or set of transactions.
The GFS system is based on international standards set out in the System of National Accounts and the accrual version of the International Monetary Fund's A Manual of Government Finance Statistics.
GFS is consistent in scope with the Australian accounting standard for whole of government reporting - Australian Accounting Standard (AAS) 31 Financial Reporting by Governments. There are, however, differences in the way activities are treated and presented in GFS and AAS31.