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User Charge Financing of Urban Public Services in Africa

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Abstract

Expansion and improvement of public services is essential to improving quality of life and productivity in developing countries. Some African countries have been diligent in expanding the infrastructure necessary to provide public services, but unfortunately, most have not done a very good job of paying for them. Imposition of user charges to fund public services would go far toward eliminating the financial problems faced by many African countries in providing services and would raise additional revenues that could be used to pay for other government expenditures. In addition to the financial benefits of user charges, there are many other benefits from their imposition. User charges have the potential to greatly improve the public sector’s efficiency, to impart a more equitable distribution of the financing burden of public services, to provide better information regarding infrastructure needs, and to improve the quality of existing services.This paper is organized as follows. Section 2 discusses the general nature of user charges: what they are, the services upon which they should be imposed, and evidence of the willingness to pay them. Section 3 discusses the extent to which user charges have been imposed in Africa in the past. Section 4 articulates the theory behind the efficient pricing of public services, resulting in a guide for setting appropriate user charges - in general as well as under special but common circumstances. Section 5 addresses the revenue implications of user charge financing, including the tendency of efficient prices to raise adequate revenues, ways to recover costs when efficient prices lead to deficits, and the attractiveness of user charges for taxation. Section 6 examines equity considerations of user charges. Finally, the analysis is brought together in section 7 by means of a case study of water supply services in Egypt. Throughout the paper, special attention is paid to the practical issues of levying user charges in Africa, issues which are too often overlooked in the literature. Concluding comments are provided in Section 8.

Suggested Citation

  • William Fox & Kelly Edmiston, 2000. "User Charge Financing of Urban Public Services in Africa," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0004, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  • Handle: RePEc:ays:ispwps:paper0004
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    File URL: http://icepp.gsu.edu/files/2015/03/ispwp0004.pdf
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    1. Anderson, Dennis, 1989. "Infrastructure pricing policies and the public revenue in African countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 525-542, April.
    2. Yew-Kwang Ng & Mendel Weisser, 1974. "Optimal Pricing with a Budget Constraint—The Case of the Two-part Tariff," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(3), pages 337-345.
    3. Whittington, Dale & Okorafor, Apia & Okore, Augustine & McPhail, Alexander, 1990. "Cost recovery strategy for rural water delivery in Nigeria," Policy Research Working Paper Series 369, The World Bank.
    4. Baumol, William J & Bradford, David F, 1970. "Optimal Departures from Marginal Cost Pricing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(3), pages 265-283, June.
    5. Martin S. Feldstein, 1972. "Equity and Efficiency in Public Sector Pricing: The Optimal Two-Part Tariff," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(2), pages 175-187.
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    Cited by:

    1. Simanti Bandyopadhyay & Debraj Bagchi, 2013. "Are User Charges Underutilsed in Indian Cities? An Analysis for Delhi," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1326, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    2. James Alm, 2015. "Financing Urban Infrastructure: Knowns, Unknowns, And A Way Forward," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(2), pages 230-262, April.
    3. World Bank, 2007. "Ethiopia - Accelerating Equitable Growth : Country Economic Memorandum, Part 2. Thematic Chapters," World Bank Other Operational Studies 7866, The World Bank.

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    Keywords

    User Charge; Urban Public Services; Africa;

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