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Corruption and trade tariffs, or a case for uniform tariffs

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  • Gatti, Roberta

Abstract

By explicitly accounting for the interaction between importers and corrupt customs officials, the author argues that setting trade tariff rates at a uniform level, limits public official's ability to extract bribes from importers. If the government's main objective is to raise revenues at the minimum cost to welfare, optimally-set tariff rates will be inversely proportional to the elasticity of demand for imports. So they will generally differ across goods. Such a menu of tariff rates endows customs officials with the opportunity to extract rent from importers. If officials have enough discretionary power, they might threaten to misclassify goods into more heavily taxed categories unless importers pay them a bribe. Because of the bribe, the effective tariff rate for the importing firm increases, so demand for the good decreases. The resulting drop in import demand implies an efficiency loss as well as lower government revenues, compared with the optimal taxation benchmark without corruption. A similar argument applies when customs officials offer to classify goods into low-tariff categories in exchange for a bribe. Setting trade tariffs at a uniform level eliminates officials'opportunities to extract rents. Thus, when corruption is pervasive, a uniform tariff can deliver more government revenues and welfare than the optimally set (Ramsey) tariff benchmark. The empirical evidence confirms that these considerations are relevant to policymaking, since a robust association between the standard deviation of trade tariffs - a measure of the diversification of tariff menus - and corruption emerges across countries.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2216.

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Date of creation: 30 Nov 1999
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2216

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Keywords: Trade Policy; Environmental Economics&Policies; Economic Theory&Research; Export Competitiveness; Decentralization; Environmental Economics&Policies; TF054105-DONOR FUNDED OPERATION ADMINISTRATION FEE INCOME AND EXPENSE ACCOUNT; Economic Theory&Research; Export Competitiveness; Trade Policy;

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References

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  1. Arvind Panagariya & Dani Rodrik, 1991. "Political-Economy Arguments for a Uniform Tariff," NBER Working Papers 3661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(3), pages 565-91, September.
  3. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Governance matters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2196, The World Bank.
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Cited by:
  1. Etleva Bajrami & Gentiana Sharku, 2010. "Customs as Facilitation of Trade. Case of Albania," Contemporary Economics, University of Finance and Management in Warsaw, vol. 4(1), March.
  2. Olivier Cadot & Jose Anson & Marcelo Olarreaga, 2003. "Tariff evasion and customs corruption : does pre-shipment inspection help?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3156, The World Bank.
  3. Broadman, Harry G. & Recanatini, Francesca, 2000. "Seeds of corruption - Do market institutions matter?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2368, The World Bank.
  4. Anson, José & Cadot, Olivier & Olarreaga, Marcelo, 2003. "Tariff Evasion and Customs Corruption: Does PSI Help?," CEPR Discussion Papers 4167, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Josh Ederington & Jenny Minier, 2002. "Tariff Uniformity and Growth," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(2), pages 65-73.
  6. Bonaglia, Federico & Braga de Macedo, Jorge & Bussolo, Maurizio, 2001. "How Globalization Improves Governance," CEPR Discussion Papers 2992, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Graf Lambsdorff, Johann, 2005. "Consequences and causes of corruption: What do we know from a cross-section of countries?," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-34-05, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
  8. Felipe Larraín & José Tavares, 2004. "Does Foreign Direct Investment Decrease Corruption?," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 41(123), pages 217-230.
  9. Asongu Simplice, 2012. "Globalization, (fighting) corruption and development: how are these phenomena linearly and nonlinearly related in wealth effects?," Working Papers 12/024, African Governance and Development Institute..
  10. Roberta Gatti, 2004. "Explaining corruption: are open countries less corrupt?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(6), pages 851-861.
  11. Gokcekus, Omer & Knorich, Jan, 2006. "Does quality of openness affect corruption?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 190-196, May.
  12. Kaufmann, Daniel & Montoriol-Garriga, Judit & Recanatini, Francesca, 2008. "How does bribery affect public service delivery ? micro-evidence from service users and public officials in Peru," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4492, The World Bank.
  13. de Jong, Eelke & Bogmans, Christian, 2011. "Does corruption discourage international trade?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 385-398, June.
  14. Zafar, Ali, 2005. "Revenue and the fiscal impact of liberalization : the case of Niger," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3500, The World Bank.
  15. Larrain B., Felipe & Tavares, José, 2007. "Can Openness Deter Corruption? The Role of Foreign Direct Investment," CEPR Discussion Papers 6488, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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