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Growth and Equity Tradeoff in Decentralization Policy: China's Experience

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Abstract

The paper uses China's recent experience to investigate the potential tradeoff between economic growth and regional equity in the design of fiscal decentralization policy. Although present in other countries, this policy tradeoff has been particularly relevant to China over the last two decades. We build a theoretical model of fiscal decentralization, where overall national economic growth and equity in the regional distribution of fiscal resources are the two objectives pursued by a benevolent policy maker. Solutions that emphasize regional equity tend to have larger central government expenditures and higher contribution to the central budget by the richer jurisdictions. The reverse is true for solutions emphasizing growth. The model is tested using panel data for 1985-98. We find that fiscal decentralization in China led to economic growth, but this relationship was non-linear. Decentralization also led to significant increases in regional inequality. Overall, the historical record shows that pushing for a more equitable distribution of fiscal resources across provinces in China is likely to lead to lower national economic growth. The tradeoff between economic growth and regional equity is the most important and difficult decision in intergovernmental fiscal reform currently facing the Chinese authorities.

Suggested Citation

  • Baoyun Qiao & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Yongsheng Xu, 2002. "Growth and Equity Tradeoff in Decentralization Policy: China's Experience," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0216, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  • Handle: RePEc:ays:ispwps:paper0216
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    File URL: http://icepp.gsu.edu/files/2015/03/ispwp0216.pdf
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    6. Justin Yifu Lin & Zhiqiang Liu, 2000. "Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Growth in China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 1-21.
    7. Yingyi Qian & Barry R. Weingast, 1997. "Federalism as a Commitment to Reserving Market Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 83-92, Fall.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martinez-Vazquez, Jorge & Timofeev, Andrey, 2008. "Regional-local dimension of Russia's fiscal equalization," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 157-176, March.
    2. Jaime Bonet, 2006. "Fiscal decentralization and regional income disparities: evidence from the Colombian experience," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 40(3), pages 661-676, August.
    3. Roy Bahl & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez, 2013. "Sequencing Fiscal Decentralization," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 641-687, November.
    4. Lars P. Feld & Horst Zimmermann & Thomas Döring, 2004. "Federalism, Decentralization, and Economic Growth," Marburg Working Papers on Economics 200430, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    5. Berthold, Norbert & Fricke, Holger, 2005. "Föderalismus und Wachstum: Eine vernachlässigte Beziehung," Discussion Paper Series 83, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Chair of Economic Order and Social Policy.
    6. Lars P. Feld & Horst Zimmermann & Thomas Döring, 2003. "Föderalismus, Dezentralität und Wirtschaftswachstum," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 72(3), pages 361-377.
    7. Berthold, Norbert & Fricke, Holger, 2007. "China's Booming Economy: Does the Federal Order Foster Growth?," Discussion Paper Series 95, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Chair of Economic Order and Social Policy.
    8. Bert Hofman & Susana Cordeira Guerra, 2004. "Ensuring Inter-regional Equity and Poverty Reduction," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0411, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    9. Jaime Bonet, 2004. "Descentralización fiscal y disparidades en el ingreso regional: la experiencia colombiana," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO SOBRE ECONOMÍA REGIONAL Y URBANA 002282, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ECONOMÍA REGIONAL.

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    Keywords

    decentralization; china;

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