09/25/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/25/2020 08:16
The COVID-19 shocks are proving to be especially challenging for fragile states. Pre-COVID, fiscal revenues were low in such countries and governments were struggling to raise them. Now, COVID-19 is hitting them hard and fiscal revenues are falling. Once the pandemic abates, restoring and further enhancing tax collection is even more important to secure debt sustainability, facilitate the post-COVID-19 recovery, and meet development financing needs in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a formidable challenge. However, our new staff research finds that achieving sizable gains in tax collection in fragile environments is not 'mission impossible.'
As our chart shows, four fragile states (Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, and Solomon Islands) achieved sizable increases in tax revenues over a decade-by between 7 and 20 percentage points of GDP. Most of these countries had introduced tax reforms when their tax revenues were far below the average for fragile states, but each went on to exceed the average, with Nepal and Solomon Islands doing so by a wide margin.
These experiences emphasize the importance of sustained tax reform efforts. In these cases, tax reforms were pursued over extended periods of time to achieve long-lasting, sizable gains. While this protracted approach may typically require political stability in order to ensure the continuity of tax reforms, it can also be achieved when administrations change, for example as we saw in Malawi.
These experiences also underscore the following lessons for tax revenue reforms in fragile states: