Mauritania's budget is habitually in deficit. Mismanagement of public enterprises and an abundance of public sector employees led to large deficits in the early 1980s. In 1985, the government began an IMF-sponsored adjustment program to stabilize the economy and diminish the role of the public sector. The overall fiscal cash deficit (excluding debt forgiveness) fell from 12% GDP in 1985 to 5.4% in 1989. From 1989 to 1992, however, due to the Persian Gulf Crisis and turmoil with Senegal, the adjustment effort was set back. In 1994, the government instituted fiscal reform designed to broaden the tax base and reduce exemptions. Goals in 1999 included increasing public revenues, decreasing spending, and increasing the performance of public companies. Privatization continued through the 1990s, and state-owned companies accounted for approximately 20% of GDP at the end of 1997.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that in 2000 Mauritania's central government took in revenues of approximately $421 million and had expenditures of $378 million including capital expenditures of $154 million. Overall, the government registered a surplus of approximately $43 million. External debt totaled $1.6 billion.