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Shun-ichiro Bessho

This chapter aims to provide an overview of the basics of Japan’s local public administration and finance system and to analyze how Japan’s municipalities restore their fiscal balance after a fiscal shock. In Japan, local governments play a major role in redistribution. Combined with regional disparities in tax capacities and an inflexible local tax system, there is a large vertical fiscal gap in Japan between the central and local governments – a gap that necessitates the transfer of funds from central to local governments. Under this system, the fiscal adjustments in Japan’s municipalities occur mainly via changes in government investment, and they account for 63–95 percent of adjustments in permanent unit innovations in grants and own-source revenue. In contrast to the role of expenditure, the municipalities’ own-source revenue plays a limited role in balancing the local budget. The results of this chapter also reveal that 40 percent of the increase in own-source revenue is offset by a reduction in grants. Furthermore, municipalities can induce grants by expanding government current expenditure. Finally, this chapter offers and discusses some policy implications.

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Central and Local Government Relations in Asia

Achieving Fiscal Sustainability

Edited by Naoyuki Yoshino and Peter J. Morgan

Sustainable and inclusive growth in emerging Asian economies requires high levels of public investment in areas such as infrastructure, education, health, and social services. The increasing complexity and regional diversity of these investment needs, together with the trend of democratization, has led to fiscal decentralization being implemented in many Asian economies. This book takes stock of some major issues regarding fiscal decentralization, including expenditure and revenue assignments, transfer programs, and sustainability of local government finances, and develops important findings and policy recommendations.
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Panchanan Das

Despite the initiatives of the Finance Commission of India, fiscal performance has been deteriorating and increasingly diverging across Indian states. Given that the state governments are endowed with expenditure autonomy, this chapter investigates whether the composition of expenditure of the subnational governments has an impact on the degree of indebtedness. A panel analysis for the 17 non-special category states over 1980–2013 indicates that apart from the budget structure, the state-specific factors affecting fiscal performance play an important role in government borrowing. Curiously enough, government borrowing is more responsive to revenue expenditure than capital outlay and has more growth-augmenting effect through revenue expenditure.

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Pinaki Chakraborty

The core emphasis of rules-based fiscal legislation at the subnational level in India is to achieve debt sustainability through a numerical ceiling on borrowing and the use of borrowed resources for public capital investment by phasing out revenue deficits. Using the Arellano Bond Panel estimation, this chapter examines whether the application of fiscal rules has resulted in an increase in the fiscal space for public capital investment spending in major Indian states. This analysis shows that by controlling other factors, there is a negative relationship between fiscal rules and public capital investment spending at the state level during the rules-based fiscal regime.

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Peter J. Morgan and Long Q. Trinh

Since 1975, Viet Nam has gradually decentralized more fiscal responsibilities to local authorities. This chapter has two objectives: (i) to take stock of the current institutional framework for intergovernmental fiscal relations in Viet Nam, and (ii) to empirically assess the debt sustainability of local governments in Viet Nam. The empirical analysis uses two estimation methods: (i) fully modified ordinary least squares (OLS) to estimate the long-term correlations between co-integration equations, including vectors of co-integration variables, and stochastic regressor innovations; and (ii) fiscal reaction equations at the provincial level, based upon the Bohn (2008) model. The empirical results suggest that deficit levels are generally sustainable at the local level.

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Salvador Barrios and Diego Martínez-López

Examining the cases of Canada, Germany, and Spain, the role played by fiscal equalization schemes in determining subnational borrowing was analyzed, and the link between regional governments’ primary fiscal balances and gross domestic product per capita was tested econometrically. The study results show that either poor or rich regions can display higher regional public borrowing on average, and these results can be linked to the institutional design of regional equalization systems in place. Particular elements, such as tax efforts and fiscal capacities, also play relevant roles in this regard. Reforms of these schemes can therefore prove instrumental in reducing regional heterogeneity in public borrowing.

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Ziying Fan and Guanghua Wan

Since the Tax Sharing Reform in 1994, the local government revenue of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has faced downward risk problems. This chapter reviews the fiscal and taxation reforms in the central and local governments of the PRC and focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of fiscal transfers. We find that, to a certain extent, fiscal transfers significantly promote the construction of local infrastructure. Earmarked transfers had an effect, but lump-sum transfers did not. Results showed every 1 percent increase in earmarked transfers to be associated with a 5 percent increase in local spending on infrastructure. These fiscal transfers also increased the size of local government spending such that a 1 percent increase of fiscal transfer would increase the ratio of local fiscal spending to gross domestic product by 1 percent. The risk of the local fiscal revenue sources was also assessed, and results showed that land finance, local government bonds, and fiscal transfers from the central government are not sustainable in the long term. The local fiscal system in the PRC needs to focus on improving local taxes in the future, such as the property tax.

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Rajeev K. Goel and James W. Saunoris

This chapter studies the effects of various forms of government decentralization on institutional quality across countries. Using corruption and the shadow economy to proxy for institutional quality, as well as three forms of government decentralization (i.e., virtual, physical, and fiscal), the econometric results show virtual decentralization to be the most effective in improving institutional quality. The effects on transition and countries in Asia are also considered.

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Peter J. Morgan and Long Q. Trinh

Sustainable and inclusive growth in emerging Asian economies requires continued high levels of public sector investment in areas such as infrastructure, education, health, and social services. These responsibilities, especially with regard to infrastructure investment, need to be devolved increasingly to the regional government level. However, growth of sources of revenue and financing for local governments has not necessarily kept pace, forcing them, in some cases, to increase borrowing or cut spending below needed levels. This chapter reviews alternative models of the relationship between central and local governments, and provides an overview and assessment of different financing mechanisms for local governments, including tax revenues, central government transfers, bank loans, and bond issuance, with a focus on the context of emerging Asian economies. The chapter also reviews financing mechanisms for local governments and mechanisms for maintaining fiscal stability and sustainability at both the central and local government levels. Based upon the evidence on the decentralization process in Asia, it proposes some policy implications for improving central–local government relations and fiscal sustainability.

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Anwar Nasution

Without much preparation, Indonesia, in 2000, at a stroke replaced the previous system of centralized government and development planning with a wide range of decentralization programs. The reforms gave greater authority, political power, and financial resources directly to regencies and municipalities, bypassing the provinces. The powers transferred include those of executing a wide range of responsibilities in the areas of health, primary and middle-level education, public works, environment, communication, transport, agriculture, manufacturing, and other economic sectors. At the same time, the government replaced the antiquated cash-based, single-entry system of public finance with a modern double-entry accounting system that uses a single treasury account; is performance based; and has transparent management of the public treasury, tight expenditure and financial controls with performance indicators, computerized reporting, and a tightly scheduled auditing system. On the positive side, unlike in many developing and transition countries, the decentralization program in Indonesia has not caused major political or economic problems. However, the decentralization program was ill prepared and not carried out in a logical order for two reasons. First, the capacity of subnational governments to produce public and private goods, increase productivity and employment, and promote economic growth in their jurisdictions, was not increased. Because of the long tradition of centralization, local government never built the capacity to carry out economic planning and undertake initiatives to promote local economic growth. Before the reform, the local governments had mainly functioned as implementing agencies of national policies and programs. Second, the number of good financial managers, as required by the new laws of public treasury and auditing, was also limited and needed to be trained. The rising revenues of local governments do not follow their increasing government functions to promote economic development that could potentially cause fiscal imbalances.