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Corruption, public finances, and the unofficial economy

Author

Listed:
  • Johnson, Simon
  • Kaufmann, Daniel
  • Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo

Abstract

The authors found that, in post-communist economies, the unofficial economy's share of GDP is determined by the extent of control rights held by bureaucrats and politicians. Exploring in detail the role of taxation and bribery, and using data from an expanded data set of 49 Latin American, OECD, and transition economies, the authors find that the unofficial economy accounts for a larger share of GDP where there is great bureaucratic inefficiency and discretion, and where firms experience a greater tax and regulatory burden, as well as more bribery and corruption. The unofficial economy is also much larger where there is less state revenue and where the rule of law is weak. They also find that countries with a larger unofficial economy tend to grow more slowly. Thus, this framework suggests an additional channel whereby corruption and ineffective regulatory and tax administration can result in lower growth: the unofficial economy. Wealthy OECD economies and some Eastern European economies find themselves the"good equilibrium"of relatively low regulatory and tax burden (not necessarily low statutory tax rates), sizable revenue mobilization, good rule of law and control of corruption, and a small unofficial economy. Several countries in Latin America and the former Soviet Union exhibit characteristics consistent with a"bad equilibrium": the discretionary application of heavy regulatory and tax burdens, the weakrule of law, heavy bribery, and an active unofficial economy. In this large country sample (unlike in the earlier framework for transition economies only), the authors find that it is the ineffective and discretionary application of regulatory and tax regimes in many countries -- not higher tax rates by itself -- that increase the size of the unofficial economy. The tax burden reported by firms appears to be more a function of regulatory and bureaucratic inefficiency and discretion rather than of tax rates alone.

Suggested Citation

  • Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Corruption, public finances, and the unofficial economy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2169, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2169
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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