Date of Award

Summer 8-7-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Jorge Martinez-Vazquez

Second Advisor

Shiferaw Gurmu

Third Advisor

Francois Vaillancourt

Fourth Advisor

Sally Wallace

Abstract

This dissertation comprises two essays that attempt to determine, empirically, the fiscal response of governments’ to international assistance. The first essay examines whether an increasingly popular recommendation in international aid policy to switch from tied foreign assistance to untied foreign assistance affects investment in critical development expenditure sectors by developing countries. In the past, most international aid has been in the form of tied assistance as donors believed that tying aid will improve its effectiveness. It has been argued, that if tied aid is well designed and effectively managed then its overall effectiveness can be improved. On the contrary, it is also believed that tied aid acts as an impediment to donor cooperation and the building of partnership with developing countries. In addition, it is also argued that it removes the ‘feeling’ of ownership and responsibility of projects from partner countries in aid supported development. Two other more popular arguments used to challenge the effectiveness of foreign aid is that it is compromised when tied to the goods and services of the donor countries because almost 30 percent of its value is eliminated and also because it does not allow recipient countries to act on their priorities for public spending. These problems bring into question whether tied aid is truly the most effective way to help poor countries. A recommendation by the international community is that a switch to untied aid would be necessary. With untied aid, the recipient country is not obligated to buy the goods of the donor country neither is it compelled to pursue the public expenditure priorities of donors. Instead with untied aid they will have greater flexibility over spending decisions and can more easily pursue the priorities of their countries as they see fit. Hence, one could expect that a one dollar increase in untied aid will increase spending in the critical priority sectors by more than a one dollar increase in tied assistance. The question therefore is whether national domestic priorities coincide or not with what the international community has traditionally deemed should be priority. Empirically, we test this prediction using country-by-country data for 57 countries for the period 1973 to 2006. The results suggest that on average untied aid has a greater impact on pro-poor spending than do tied aid. In addition, the results also suggest that fungibility is still an issue even after accounting for the effects of untied aid. However, one could argue that fungibility may not be as bad as it appears since the switch to untied aid improves spending in the sectors that are essential for growth and development.

The second essay explores the hypothesis that the expectations of debt forgiveness can discourage developing countries from attaining fiscal independence through an improvement of their tax effort. On the one hand, the international financial community typically advises poor countries to improve revenue mobilization but, on the other hand, the same international community routinely continues to bail-out poor countries that fail to meet their loan repayment obligations. The act of bailing-out these countries creates an expectation on the part of developing country governments that they will receive debt forgiveness time and again in the future. Therefore, the expectation of future bail outs creates a moral hazard that leads to endemic lower tax efforts. The key prediction of our simple theoretical model is that in the presence of debt forgiveness, tax ratios will decline and this decline will be stronger the higher the frequency and intensity of the bailouts. Empirically, we test this prediction using country-level data for 66 countries for the period 1989 to 2006. The results strongly suggest that debt forgiveness plays a significant role in the low tax effort observed in developing countries. Our empirical model allows for the endogeneity of tax effort and debt forgiveness. Interestingly we find that more debt forgiveness is actually provided to countries with lower tax effort. The results are robust to various specifications.

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