Fiscal federalism in big developing countries: China and India
In South and East Asian countries a highly centralized government prevails, although recently some trends are moving toward a greater degree of decentralization. Also the two giants China and India, which cannot rely on a merely centralized Government, have experienced a greater or lesser degree of fiscal unionism. As to China the local government system provides four levels: provincial level; city level; county level; township level. Intergovernmental fiscal relations were revamped by the 1994 reform that established a new tax sharing system and gave local governments more control over the administration of local taxes but no significant degree of tax autonomy and no substantial expenditure assignments. The local financial revenue mainly derives from local taxes, shared taxes, and nontax revenue. As to India, the federal system is quite complex. The center-states relations are envisaged in the Constitution also for the financial aspects: two constitutional amendments adopted in 1992 made India one of the most politically decentralized countries among developing ones. However, the implementation of the decentralization program is still lagging: till now India seems to have considered decentralization mainly in terms of the local election system, without the transfer of all functions provided for devolution to local bodies. Only India set up a different system of local bodies in rural and urban areas with different expenditure responsibilities and financing powers. On the contrary, China has a unitary fiscal system. In India it is necessary to redesign the transfer system to improve accountability, incentives and equity, whereas in China, the fiscal revenue sharing schemes limit intergovernmental budget transfers. Finally, the rule of hard budget constraint in China is faced by all levels of government, while in India sub-national governments face soft budget constraint.
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