December 5, 2017
Tax revenues play a critical role for countries to create room in their budgets to increase spending on social services like health and education, and public investment. At a time when public debt levels in sub-Saharan Africa have increased sharply, raising tax revenues is the most growth-friendly way to stabilize debt. More broadly, building a country’s tax capacity is at the center of any viable development strategy to meet the ongoing needs for expanding education and health care, and filling significant infrastructure gaps. […]
By Masood Ahmed
(version in عربي)
The International Monetary Fund released today a new paper entitled “Toward New Horizons—Arab Economic Transformation amid Political Transitions.”
The paper makes the case for the urgency of launching economic policy reforms, beyond short-term macroeconomic management, to support economic stability and stronger, job-creating economic growth in the Arab Countries in Transition—Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen.
These countries face the risk of stagnation if reforms are delayed further.Economic conditions have deteriorated from transition-related disruptions, regional conflict, an unclear political outlook, eroding competitiveness, and a challenging external economic environment.
As economic realities fall behind peoples’ expectations, there is a risk of increased discontent. This could further complicate the political transitions, impairing governments’ mandates and planning horizons and, consequently, their ability to implement the policies necessary to catalyze the much-needed economic improvements.
These are difficult times for ministers of finance. Fiscal constraints are tight and raising economic growth a priority. At the same time, income inequality is on the rise, and so is public pressure for governments to do something about it through their tax and spending policies. What’s a minister to do? How can he or she meet these seemingly incompatible demands?
A new IMF paper provides some guidance. Governments, of course, will have their own equity objectives. What the paper aims to do is look at precisely how countries can achieve their distributional goals—whatever they are—at the least possible cost to (and maybe even increasing) economic efficiency. This can help achieve sustainable growth and, in many cases, lead to fiscal savings. An earlier study by IMF researchers found that on average, fiscal redistribution has been associated with higher growth, because it helps reduce inequality.
By Michael Keen
(Version in Español)
Benjamin Franklin famously said these are the only things that we can be sure will happen to us. Certainly taxation has been much to the fore of public debate in the last few years. The latest Fiscal Monitor takes a close look at where tax systems now stand, and where they might, and should be headed. Can we tax better, could we—if we wanted to—raise more revenue, and how does fairness come into it?
A better way to tax
The IMF’s broad advice on the revenue side of consolidation is straightforward.
- Before raising rates, broaden bases by scaling back exemptions and special treatments, and thereby getting more people and entities to pay taxes;
- Rely more on taxing consumption rather than labor;
- Strengthen property taxes; and
- Seize opportunities to raise revenue while correcting environmental and other distortions by, not least, carbon pricing (to address climate and other pollution challenges).