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Regional State Capacity and the Optimal Degree of Fiscal Decentralization

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  • Antonio A. Bellofatto
  • Martín Besfamille

Abstract

This paper studies the optimal degree of fiscal decentralization in a federation. In our environment, regional governments are characterized by two dimensions of state capacity; namely, administrative and fiscal. These gauge the ability to deliver public goods and to raise tax revenues, respectively. Two regimes are compared: partial and full decentralization. Under partial decentralization, regional governments have no tax powers and rely on central bailouts to refinance incomplete projects. Under full decentralization, regional governments refinance incomplete projects through capital taxes, in a context of tax competition. We provide a normative comparison between partial and full decentralization and show how the optimal degree of fiscal decentralization hinges on the relative magnitudes of each type of capacity. Specifically, for sufficiently low levels of fiscal capacity bailing out regional governments is optimal, regardless of the level of administrative ability. However, a combination of low levels of administrative capacity and high levels of fiscal capacity calls for fully decentralizing tax powers.

Suggested Citation

  • Antonio A. Bellofatto & Martín Besfamille, 2015. "Regional State Capacity and the Optimal Degree of Fiscal Decentralization," Documentos de Trabajo 460, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  • Handle: RePEc:ioe:doctra:460
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    File URL: http://www.economia.uc.cl/docs/dt_460.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Wilson, John Douglas, 1991. "Tax competition with interregional differences in factor endowments," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 423-451, November.
    2. Timothy Goodspeed, 2002. "Bailouts in a Federation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 9(4), pages 409-421, August.
    3. Robin Boadway & Anwar Shah, 2007. "Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers : Principles and Practice," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7171, June.
    4. Bucovetsky, S., 1991. "Asymmetric tax competition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 167-181, September.
    5. Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay & Elliott Green, 2016. "Precolonial Political Centralization and Contemporary Development in Uganda," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(3), pages 471-508.
    6. Susan Steiner, 2010. "How Important is the Capacity of Local Governments for Improvements in Welfare? Evidence from Decentralised Uganda," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(4), pages 644-661.
    7. Wildasin, David E., 1997. "Externalities and bailouts : hard and soft budget constraints in intergovernmental fiscal relations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1843, The World Bank.
    8. repec:idb:brikps:80759 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Eyraud, Luc & Lusinyan, Lusine, 2013. "Vertical fiscal imbalances and fiscal performance in advanced economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(5), pages 571-587.
    10. Guccio, Calogero & Pignataro, Giacomo & Rizzo, Ilde, 2014. "Do local governments do it better? Analysis of time performance in the execution of public works," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 237-252.
    11. Joanis, Marcelin, 2014. "Shared accountability and partial decentralization in local public good provision," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 28-37.
    12. Jonathan A. Rodden & Gunnar S. Eskeland (ed.), 2003. "Fiscal Decentralization and the Challenge of Hard Budget Constraints," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262182297, January.
    13. Ernesto Crivelli & Klaas Staal, 2013. "Size, spillovers and soft budget constraints," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 20(2), pages 338-356, April.
    14. Martin Besfamille & Ben Lockwood, 2008. "Bailouts In Federations: Is A Hard Budget Constraint Always Best?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(2), pages 577-593, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Aslim, Erkmen Giray & Neyapti, Bilin, 2017. "Optimal fiscal decentralization: Redistribution and welfare implications," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 224-234.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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