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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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Belarus Rail Sector Reforms Would Boost Competitiveness, Contribution to Economy

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Organizational restructuring, tariff  reforms, and strategic use of digital technologies would boost the competitiveness of the Belarusian railway sector, improving rail passenger experience and contributing more to the economy, says a newly published World Bank Railway and Logistics sector study for Belarus.

Over the last decade, the railway sector’s share of transit traffic in Belarus has fallen from 35% to 29%, a decline caused largely by increased competition from road transport, combined with challenges in the railway sector’s organizational structure and tariff policies.

“Belarusian Railways isn’t a company in the conventional sense – it’s a Public Association that supervises 29 different state-owned legal entities, each with its own balance sheet, statement of accounts and assets, and decision-making processes,” says Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus. “Consolidating all these entities into a single state-owned enterprise would help improve the sector’s overall management and competitiveness.”

The study recommends a new strategy for Belarusian Railways that includes revaluation of assets, changes to accounting practices, and development of commercial strategies and business plans both for freight and passenger units. The study also calls for the strategic use of digital technologies to improve customer service, increase operational efficiency, and support infrastructure management.

In Belarus, most rail prices are regulated by the state. While international passenger tariffs have increased, regional and local passenger service tariffs have declined considerably, compared with inflation and earnings. As such, Belarusian Railways has had to cross-subsidize passenger services by charging higher tariffs on its freight business, which adversely impacts its competitiveness against foreign carriers and road freight.

“Prices for passenger transport by rail are so low that a 30km rail journey costs less than a metro ride in Minsk,” says Winnie Wang, World Bank Senior Transport Specialist. “An obligation to cross-subsidizing loss-making passenger services which should be a public service has prevented Belarusian Railways from making critical investments in its freight network, and even threatens the railway’s financial viability. To enhance competitiveness, therefore, Belarusian Railways should review its tariffs and set its own prices.”

As an important first step in the long-term process of transforming the railway sector, the study suggests that Belarusian Railways undertakes analyses of freight and passenger markets and forecasts, investment needs and requirements, and organizational structure.

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Spending on health increase faster than rest of global economy

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Spending on health is outpacing the rest of the global economy, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

According to the UN health agency, “countries are spending more on health, but people are still paying too much out of their own pockets”.

The agency’s new report on global health expenditure launched on Wednesday reveals that “spending on health is outpacing the rest of the global economy, accounting for 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

The trend is particularly noticeable in low- and middle-income countries where health spending is growing on average six per cent annually compared with four per cent in high-income countries.

Health spending is made up of government expenditure, out-of-pocket payments and other sources, such as voluntary health insurance and employer-provided health programmes.

While reliance on out-of-pocket expenses is slowly declining around the world, the report notes that in low- and middle-income countries, domestic public funding for health is increasing and external funding in middle-income countries, declining.

Highlighting the importance of increasing domestic spending for achieving universal health coverage and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, said that this should be seen as “an investment in poverty reduction, jobs, productivity, inclusive economic growth, and healthier, safer, fairer societies.”

Worldwide, governments provide an average of 51 per cent of a country’s health spending, while more than 35 per cent of health spending per country comes from out-of-pocket expenses. One consequence of this is 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty each year, the report stresses.

When government spending on health increases, people are less likely to fall into poverty seeking health services. But government spending only reduces inequities in access when allocations are carefully planned to ensure that the entire population can obtain primary health care, the UN agency said.

“All WHO’s 194 Member States recognized the importance of primary health care in their adoption of the Declaration of Astana last October,” said Agnés Soucat, WHO’s Director for Health Systems, Governance and Financing. “Now they need to act on that declaration and prioritize spending on quality healthcare in the community,” she added.

The report also examines the role of external funding. As domestic spending increases, the proportion of funding provided by external aid has dropped to less than one per cent of global health expenditure. Almost half of these external funds are devoted to three diseases – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.

The report also points to ways that policy makers, health professionals and citizens alike can continue to strengthen health systems.

“Health is a human right and all countries need to prioritize efficient, cost-effective primary health care as the path to achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals,” Dr. Soucat concluded.

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Responsible investment and sustainable development growing priority for private equity

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Responsible investment – involving the management of  environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – is an increasingly significant consideration for both private equity houses (general partners – GPs) and investors (limited partners – LPs), according to a new survey released today by PwC.

The Private Equity Responsible Investment Survey 2019 draws upon the views of 162 respondents from 35 countries/territories, including 145 PE houses. This is the fourth edition of the survey, following on from previous editions in 2016, 2015 and 2013.

The 2019 survey has found that nearly 81% of respondents are reporting ESG matters to their boards at least once a year, with a third (35%) doing so more often. Almost all (91%) report having a policy in place or in development, compared to 80% in 2013. Of these, 78% are using or developing KPIs to track, measure and report on progress of their responsible investment or ESG policy.

Most strikingly, 35% of respondents reported having a team dedicated to responsible investment activity (an increase from 27% in 2016). Of those without a specific function, 66% rely on their Investment/Deal teams to manage ESG matters.

Meanwhile, two thirds (67%) of respondents have identified and prioritised SDGs that are relevant to their investments (compared to 38% in 2016) and 43% have a proactive approach to monitoring and reporting portfolio company performance against the SDGs (up from 16% in 2016).

Will Jackson-Moore, Global Private Equity, Real Assets and Sovereign Fund Leader at PwC, says, ‘This is a really encouraging survey that suggests responsible investment is starting to come of age in terms of driving sustainable business practice. The private equity sector has a vital role to play in supporting sustainable development: the survey highlights that private equity houses and LPs are taking that responsibility seriously and driving genuine change. That is especially important as their role in global capital markets increases.

‘It is heartening to see that responsible investment is seen as a matter for those at the heart of the investment process and needs to be supported by rigorous monitoring and reporting. LPs are playing a vital role in applying pressure to act on key areas of ESG concerns and in influencing board agendas.

‘Yet while responsible investment may only be at the ‘young adult’ stage of development, these are signs of increasing maturity.’

Even so, the survey also acknowledges a continued distance between those considering action, and those taking proactive steps. For instance, while 89% of respondents cite cyber and data security as a concern, only 41% are taking action. Similarly, 83% are concerned by climate risk for their portfolio companies, yet only 31% have acted upon this.

Will Jackson-Moore says,‘There is a risk of “impact-washing” – where it is claimed that investments have a greater SDG-aligned contribution or positive impact than can be evidenced, or using positive examples of responsible investment to divert attention from other investments where  less action has been taken.

‘Yet investors and PE leaders have a role to play in continuing to influence responsible investment behaviour, through demanding more robust and granular reporting around ESG matters. For instance, PwC UK has worked with the well-respected global initiative The Impact Management Project to develop an impact assessment framework based on the SDGs, to support investors.

‘We are at the stage that we can see ESG genuinely driving returns, and enhanced ESG practices can potentially enhance multiples: it may well be the next big value lever.

‘It is therefore vital for PE houses and investors alike to recognise that even if responsible investment may seem challenging there are numerous solutions and frameworks that can be applied to achieve positive outcomes.’

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