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African economies sustain progress in domestic resource mobilisation

MD Staff

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Africa has sustained gains in domestic resource mobilisation made since 2000, as tax revenues remained stable in 2016, according to Revenue Statistics in Africa 2018. Providing internationally comparable data for 21 participating countries, the report finds that the average tax-to-GDP ratio was 18.2% in 2016, the same level as in 2015, which represents a strong improvement from 13.1% in 2000.

The third edition of Revenue Statistics in Africa, released today in Paris during the 18th International Economic Forum on Africa, shows that tax-to-GDP ratios varied widely across African countries, ranging from 7.6% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to 29.4% in Tunisia in 2016. Six countries -Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia- had tax-to-GDP ratios greater than or equal to 20% in 2016. In comparison, the average tax-to-GDP ratio for Latin America and the Caribbean was 22.7% and 34.3% for OECD countries in 2016.

Revenue Statistics in Africa is a joint initiative between the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its Development Centre, with the support of the European Union.

The publication, which now covers 21 countries, shows that revenue trends are mixed. Between 2015 and 2016, the tax-to-GDP ratios of 11 countries increased while those of 10 countries in the sample decreased. Botswana registered the highest increase (1.3 percentage points) followed by Mali (1.2 percentage points). The largest decreases (of over 2.0 percentage points) occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger. The changes in tax-to-GDP ratios were primarily due to economic factors. Declines in oil prices coupled with lower activity among mining and oil companies contributed to the decreases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger, while a significant increase in the sale of diamonds in Botswana has increased revenues. In contrast, the increased tax-to-GDP ratio in Mali is partly explained by improvements to tax administration.

African economies continue to rely heavily on taxes on goods and services, which accounted for 54.6% of total tax revenues in the Africa (21) average. Value-added taxes (VAT) alone accounted for 29.3% of revenues. However, the contribution of income taxes is increasing: taxes on income and profits accounted for 34.3% of total revenues across the Africa (21) in 2016 and have contributed the most to growth in tax revenues since 2000, increasing by 2.6% of GDP to reach 6.2% of GDP in 2016. Corporate income tax revenue increased by 1.4 percentage points over this period to 2.8% of GDP, while revenue from personal income tax rose from 2.1% to 3.0% of GDP in 2016, a historic high.

The report also contains data on non-tax revenues, which continued to decline across the 21 countries on average in 2016 but remain an important source of income in certain countries. These revenues, which include income from natural resources and grants, exceeded 5% of GDP in nine of the 21 countries.

Revenue Statistics in Africa is an important part of the African Union’s Strategy for the Harmonization of Statistics in Africa (SHaSA) and is aligned with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and SDG 17.1. This edition contains a special chapter on SHaSA, identifying its approach to establishing an efficient statistical system that covers the political, economic, social, environmental and cultural development and integration of Africa, as well as the role of Revenue Statistics in Africa in this strategy.

KEY FINDINGS

Tax revenues as a percentage of GDP

  • The Africa (21) average tax-to-GDP ratio was 18.2% in 2016, which is 5.0 percentage points higher than in 2000 but unchanged from 2015.
  • In 2016, tax-to-GDP ratios ranged from 7.6% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to 29.4% in Tunisia. Six countries (Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia) had tax-to-GDP ratios greater than or equal to 20% in 2016.
  • The change in the tax-to-GDP ratio since 2000 is comparable with the increase in the LAC region (4.7 percentage points) and significantly stronger than growth amongst OECD countries over the same period (0.4 percentage points).
  • Between 2015 and 2016, the tax-to-GDP ratios of 11 countries increased while those of 10 countries in the sample decreased. This contrasts with 2015, when the Africa (21) tax-to-GDP ratio increased by 0.5 percentage points from the previous year on average and in 15 of the 21 countries.

Tax structure

  • VAT revenue as a percentage of GDP in the Africa (21) increased by 2.0 percentage points from 2000, to 5.3% in 2016. VAT revenue accounted for the highest share of tax revenues in 2016 at 29.3%, an increase of 4.9 percentage points from 2000. The share of taxes on trade has fallen from 17.9% of total tax revenue to 11.6% over the same period.
  • Revenue from income taxes contributed the most to growth in the average tax-to-GDP ratio of the Africa (21) between 2000 and 2016, increasing by 2.6% of GDP over this period to reach 6.2% of GDP in 2016. On average across the Africa (21), corporate income tax revenue increased by 1.4 percentage points – from 1.4% to 2.8% of GDP – between 2000 and 2016.
  • The Africa (21) average tax structure is similar to that of LAC countries, although social security contributions in LAC are, on average, considerably higher. The Africa (21) average share of personal income tax (PIT) revenues to total tax revenue was 15.8% in 2016, lower than the OECD average (24.4%) but higher than the LAC average (9.7%).
  • Non-tax revenues were equivalent to at least 5% of GDP in nine of the 21 countries in 2016. Of the 21 countries, all but four had lower non-tax revenues as a proportion of GDP in 2016 than in 2015.

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New safety and health issues emerge as work changes

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Changes in working practices, demographics, technology and the environment are creating new occupational safety and health (OSH) concerns, according to a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Growing challenges include psychosocial risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases, notably circulatory and respiratory diseases, and cancers.

The report, Safety and Health at the heart of the Future of Work: Building on 100 years of experience * , is being published ahead of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work , which is marked on April 28th. It reviews the ILO’s 100 years of work on OSH issues, and highlights emerging health and safety issues in the world of work.

Currently, more than 374 million people are injured or made ill every year through work-related accidents. It is estimated that work days lost to OSH-related causes represent almost 4 per cent of global GDP, in some countries as much as 6 per cent, the Report says.

“As well as more effective prevention for established risks, we are seeing profound changes in our places and ways of working. We need safety and health structures that reflect this, alongside a general culture of prevention that creates shared responsibility,” said Manal Azzi, ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health.

Looking to the future, the report highlights four major transformative forces driving changes. It points out that all also offer opportunities for improvements.

First, technology, such as digitization, robotics, and nanotechology, can also affect psychosocial health and introduce new materials with unmeasured health hazards. Correctly applied it can also help reduce hazardous exposures, facilitate training and labour inspections.

Demographic shifts are important because young workers have significantly high occupational injury rates, while older workers need adaptive practices and equipment to work safely. Women – who are entering the workforce in increasing numbers – are more likely to have non-standard work arrangements and have a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Thirdly, development and climate change give rise to risks such as air pollution, heat stress, emerging diseases, shifting weather and temperature patterns that can bring job losses. Equally, new jobs will be created through sustainable development and the green economy.

Finally, changes in the organization of work can bring flexibility that allows more people to enter the labour force, but may also lead to psychosocial issues (for example, insecurity, compromised privacy and rest time, or inadequate OSH and social protections) and excessive work hours. Approximately 36 per cent of the world’s workforce currently works excessive hours (more than 48 hours per week).

In the light of these challenges the study proposes six areas on which policy makers and other stakeholders should focus. These include more work on anticipating new and emerging OSH risks, adopting a more multidisciplinary approach and building stronger links to public health work. Better public understanding of OSH issues is also needed. Finally, international labour standards and national legislation need to be strengthened, something which will require stronger collaboration between Governments, workers and employers.

By far the greatest proportion of current work-related deaths – 86 per cent – come from disease. In the region of 6,500 people a day die from occupational diseases, compared to 1,000 from fatal occupational accidents.

The greatest causes of mortality are circulatory diseases (31 per cent), work-related cancers (26 per cent) and respiratory diseases (17 per cent).

“As well as the economic cost we must recognize the immeasurable human suffering such illnesses and accidents cause. These are all-the-more tragic because they are largely preventable,” said Azzi. “Serious consideration should also be given to the recommendation of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work , that occupational safety and health be recognized as a fundamental principle and right at work.”

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China needs further reforms to make growth sustainable, greener and more inclusive

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The Chinese economy continues to slow as it rebalances, with headwinds including trade frictions and the weakening global economy undermining exports and creating new uncertainties. Policy should focus on long-term strategies to move the economy towards greater domestic consumption and services, enhancing economic efficiency and ensuring that future growth is sustainable, greener and more inclusive, according to a new report from the OECD.

The latest OECD Economic Survey of China looks at the factors behind the economic slowdown as well as policies that can boost the quality of future growth and ensure that it is more equitably distributed. Despite the slowdown, the Survey projects growth above 6% this year and next, and sees continuing convergence with more advanced economies.  

The Survey, presented in Beijing by OECD Deputy Secretary-General Ludger Schuknecht, underlines the rising financial risks from high corporate debt and recommends that China prioritises the creation of a single product and labour market to boost productivity and inclusiveness.

“China continues to be the major driver of world economic growth and convergence with advanced economies continues, despite the slowdown,” Mr Schuknecht said. “Yet China is at a crossroads, facing serious domestic and external challenges to maintaining its strong position over the long-term. Policy should seek to ensure a better functioning economy that delivers stable and inclusive growth for all.”

The Survey underlines the need for more balanced trade and investment. Policy should aim to further lower import tariffs and dismantle non-tariff barriers and barriers on the entry and conduct of foreign firms, in particular requirements to form joint ventures or transfer technology.

While much has been done to address financial risks, China’s ongoing fiscal stimulus should avoid directing credit to state-owned enterprises and local governments, the Survey said. Debt ceilings should take into account sub-national government revenues.

Prudent fiscal policy should channel funds to areas where returns are highest, such as education, health and social security systems, while avoiding misallocation of capital by allowing banks to better price risks. Risk perception could be sharpened by orderly defaults. The quality, coverage and timeliness of fiscal reporting can be improved, the Survey said.

The Survey sees wide scope to improve efficiency across the economy, notably by reducing the internal barriers that hinder product market competition and labour mobility. Strengthening the rule of law, restricting the power of administrative departments and providing clear and detailed implementation rules limiting their discretionary powers would reduce protectionism at the local level. Anti-monopoly rules and enforcement can be strengthened and public procurement processes could be made more transparent, technology-neutral and open to all players.

Other measures to boost economic efficiency highlighted by the Survey include stronger protection of intellectual property rights; gradual removal of implicit guarantees to state-owned enterprises, allowing them to default; and reduction of state ownership in commercially-oriented, non-strategic sectors.

To ensure equal opportunities, the Survey recommends China to distribute more evenly high-quality education and health care in order to reduce incentives to move to mega-cities. Gradually easing restrictions on access to public services for city residents without the hukou (residency permit) and eventually delinking service provision from the hukou would also help improve equity. Centralised financing of key spending items, such as wage bills in education and health, reforms to the floor and ceiling for social security contributions and wider tax reform should be pursued.

To make growth greener, the Survey suggests China enforce environmental regulations more strictly, raise fines for polluters and boost environmental taxation, particularly on fossil fuels. Putting an end to the construction of coal-fired power plants and increasing investment in pollution treatment facilities, urban water treatment and rural sanitation is also necessary.

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Bhutan’s Economy to Moderately Grow in 2019 and 2020 on Strong Hydropower and Tourism Outlooks

MD Staff

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Economic growth in Bhutan is forecast to strengthen moderately, buoyed by the industry and services sectors, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

The Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2019, ADB’s flagship annual economic publication, forecasts the economy to grow at 5.7% this year and 6.0% in 2020. This is following the slipping of growth for a second year running to 5.5% in fiscal year (FY) 2018 on slower hydropower construction and temporary decline in electric power production.

“The expected commissioning of the Mangdechhu hydropower plant, strengthening of private spending, and increased government spending following the formation of a new government to implement the Twelfth Five-Year Plan will greatly contribute to growth,” said ADB Country Director for Bhutan Ms. Kanokpan Lao-Araya. “Inflationary pressure is anticipated following the recent announcement of expected pay rise of the public servants in Bhutan. A downside risk to growth forecasts would be any further delay in commissioning or lower-than-expected production capacity of the Mangdechhu hydropower plant.”

Inflation is expected to rise moderately from 3.6% in FY2018 to 3.8% in FY2019 before edging up to 4.0% in FY2020 as initial benefits from India’s goods and service tax (GST) taper and Indian inflation trends higher. Lower international oil price forecasts will help keep inflation at bay, but the planned revisions to civil service salaries and minimum wage might push up inflation, once implemented.

Current account deficit will continue to narrow further to a forecast of 16.9% of gross domestic product in FY2019, mainly on declining imports with the slowing of hydropower construction and a 6-month hiatus in capital expenditure as the country transitioned to a new administration. It is expected to shrink further in FY2020, as higher imports because of the picking up of government investment is offset by high export revenue from the full-year operation of the Mangdechhu hydropower plant.

Strengthening domestic resources toward better funding of development remains a challenge. With the expected graduation of Bhutan from the United Nations’ least developed country status in 2023, access to concessional official development assistance will increasingly be limited. Reforms have been undertaken to strengthen the mobilization of revenues to fund development. These include the creation of a stabilization fund to ensure even distribution of expenditure, a GST regime which is planned to be adopted in 2020, and reforms on provision of fiscal incentives. Fiscal incentives have been costly for the government with forgone revenue amounting to 17% of tax collected in 2017 only. Reduction of fiscal incentives, particularly tax reforms could be explored to raise government revenues, discourage the entry of footloose opportunists, while not deterring investors who see solid business opportunities in the country. Further, Bhutan needs to simplify the provision and administration of incentives without compromising the level of investment. As a complement to revenue reforms, public financial management needs further strengthening to ensure the proper collection and administration of revenue.

ADB has been supporting Bhutan since 1982, with strong emphasis on renewable energy production, transport connectivity, and key urban infrastructure projects. ADB has committed loans totaling $534.06 million, grants worth $269.22 million, and technical assistance amounting to $53.75 million for Bhutan. In 2018, it approved four projects, including two grant projects focusing on human resource development, particularly on skills and health development. Overall assistance aims to help generate revenue, support inclusive growth, and promote environmental sustainability.

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