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Preface

Achieving Fiscal Sustainability

Edited by Naoyuki Yoshino and Peter J. Morgan

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Paul Smoke

Fiscal decentralization and intergovernmental fiscal relations reform have become nearly ubiquitous in developing countries. Performance, however, has often been disappointing in terms of both policy formulation and outcomes. The dynamics underlying these results have been poorly researched. Available literature focuses heavily on policy and institutional design concerns framed by public finance, fiscal federalism, and public management principles. The literature tends to explain unsatisfactory outcomes largely as a result of some combination of flawed design and management of intergovernmental fiscal systems, insufficient capacity, and lack of political will. These factors are important, but there is room to broaden the analysis in at least two potentially valuable ways. First, much can be learned by more robustly examining how national and local political and bureaucratic forces shape the policy space, providing opportunities for and placing constraints on effective and sustainable reform. Second, the analysis would benefit from moving beyond design to considering how to implement reform more strategically.

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Qichun Zhang and Shufang Li

Fiscal decentralization has been established in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but crises emerge at the local government level due to remaining problems of the fiscal administration system of tax allocation and the impact of replacing the business tax with a value added tax. The PRC taxation system requires readjustment and local governments have begun to focus on innovative financing models. The main path to stable and sustainable government finances is to maintain the general public budget and the government fund budget. The present chapter shows that use of innovative fundraising and financing channels will lead to the upgrading of local government infrastructure and public services. Suggestions for enhancing local government fiscal stability and sustainability include: reducing the fiscal burden at the local level by standardizing and legalizing outlay establishing a modern taxation system; establishing a standardized and predictable transfer payment system by introducing block transfer payments and prioritized transfer payments as a basis for a stable growth mechanism for general transfer payments; promoting public–private partnership legislation to encourage participation of social capital and maximize the multiplier effect of public expenditure; and improving the mid-term budget and debt-annexed budget and establishing a government planning mechanism for investment and debt financing of major infrastructure construction projects.

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How well do subnational borrowing regulations work?

Achieving Fiscal Sustainability

Jorge Martinez-Vazquez and Violeta Vulovic

There are many positive aspects associated with subnational borrowing, including additional funding and promoting intergenerational equity. However, it may also endanger fiscal sustainability and macro stability due to moral hazard and soft budget constraints, making borrowing controls justified and common. This chapter reviews the different types of ex ante and ex post subnational borrowing regulations used in the international experience based on a large panel of developed and developing countries. Each type of regulation has advantages and disadvantages, with varying suitability to a country’s circumstances. It is found that the presence of subnational tax autonomy contributes to an increase in the general government primary balance but not significantly for subnational primary balances. A history of subnational bailouts is associated with lower primary balances, on average, at all levels. The ‘golden rule’ and limits on debt and borrowing appear effective at all levels of government. However, none of the broad types of subnational borrowing regulations seem to have a distinct significant direct effect on the narrow definition of fiscal sustainability at the subnational level.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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.