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Fiscal constraints, collection costs, and trade policies

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  • Kubota, Keiko

Abstract

That free trade allows economies in an ideal world to achieve the greatest possible welfare is one of the few undisputed propositions in economics. In reality, however, free trade is rare. The author argues that many developing countries intervene in trade at least partly to raise revenues, and that episodes of trade liberalization are often linked to tax reform. The author proposes a formal model to explain why developing countries rely disproportionately on tariffs for government revenues, when tax reforms are expected, and under what conditions trade liberalization will take place. The model uses the simple concept of the fixed costs involved in tax collection. When fiscal needs are limited, and the infrastructure to monitor, administer, and collect taxes is not well-developed, it is optimal for governments to rely on a handful of easy-to-collect taxes, which generally includes trade taxes. When fiscal needs expand, theexcess burden on the tax base grows rapidly, and tax reform becomes necessary. Tax reforms reduce reliance on the existing tax base, often allowing the statutory tax rate to be lowered. This is a form of trade liberalization when it involves the trade sector. The author defines trade liberalization in a somewhat unconventional way: only reductions in the rates at which the trade sector is taxed, are considered trade liberalization. Tariffication of quotas, normally considered a form of trade liberalization, is treated as tax reform (expanding the tax base). The author tests this hypothesis empirically, first through three historic case studies (Bolivia, Jamaica, and Morocco) and then through systematic econometric analysis. She constructs a set of panel data for 38 developing countries for 1980-92, using the statutory tariff rates published by UNCTAD. She uses empirical tests to isolate the cause of trade liberalization. The results support her hypothesis: tariff rates are positively related to fiscal shocks, and negatively associated with episodes of tax reform.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2366.

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Date of creation: 30 Jun 2000
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2366

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Keywords: Banks&Banking Reform; Environmental Economics&Policies; Public Sector Economics&Finance; Economic Theory&Research; Municipal Financial Management; Environmental Economics&Policies; Public Sector Economics&Finance; Economic Theory&Research; TF054105-DONOR FUNDED OPERATION ADMINISTRATION FEE INCOME AND EXPENSE ACCOUNT; National Governance;

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  1. James E. Anderson, 1996. "Trade Reform with a Government Budget Constraint," NBER Working Papers 5827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Fernandez, Raquel & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1146-55, December.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Emran, M. Shahe & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2005. "On selective indirect tax reform in developing countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(4), pages 599-623, April.
  2. Michael E. S. Hoffman, 2005. "Political and Public Finance Motives for Tariffs," International Trade 0510016, EconWPA.
  3. Lee Robinson & Alice Nicole Sindzingre, 2012. "China’s Ambiguous Impacts on Commodity-Dependent Countries: the Example of Sub-Saharan Africa (with a Focus on Zambia)," EconomiX Working Papers 2012-39, University of Paris West - Nanterre la Défense, EconomiX.
  4. Xenia Matschke, 2005. "Costly Revenue-Raising and the Case for Favoring Import-Competing Industries," Working papers 2005-28, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2007.
  5. Abel Escribà-Folch, 2009. "Do authoritarian institutions mobilize economic cooperation?," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 71-93, March.
  6. Bussmann, Margit, 2009. "The Effect of Trade Openness on Women's Welfare and Work Life," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1027-1038, June.
  7. Buffie, Edward F. & Atolia, Manoj, 2012. "Trade, growth, and poverty in Zambia: Insights from a dynamic GE model," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 211-229.

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