Fiscal Reforms in the Least Developed Countries

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Fiscal reforms have been an integral and essential component of the structural adjustment programmes implemented in the least developed countries (LDCs) since the 1980s. The need for fiscal reform in the LDCs was motivated by the accumulation of unsustainable fiscal deficits, constraints on the availability of external finance, the adverse impact of distortionary tax systems on economic efficiency and deficiencies in public administration. Fiscal reform in the LDCs encompassed deficit reduction, the restructuring of the tax system, and the reform of public administration and public expenditures. The empirical research in this volume provides an analysis of the experience of the fiscal reforms carried out since the early 1980s in four different LDCs - Bangladesh, The Gambia, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania. The case studies examine the nature and budgetary impact of the fiscal reforms in these countries, assess the extent to which reforms have achieved their objectives and discuss the major obstacles to the success of fiscal reform. The empirical studies are supplemented by a chapter outlining the contribution which economic theory can make to the design of optimal tax and expenditure systems in developing countries and to the implementation of fiscal reforms. An overview chapter, which also serves as an introduction to the volume, discusses the reasons why LDCs have embarked on fiscal reforms, summarizes the salient findings of the country case studies and assesses the lessons which can be learnt from these empirical studies.