The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Ali Ibrahim, Arvind Subramanian, and Luis Torres-Castro
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
This paper examines the theory underpinning the design of optimal tariffs in a developing economy, and the experience of implementation of tariff reforms. A central issue is whether and when a case can be made for a uniform tariff structure. While theory advocates a differentiated tariff structure (except under a balance of payments objective), political economy considerations, inadequate information, and administrative convenience point to a minimally differentiated tariff structure. The experience of reform indicates that tariff structures are mainly influenced by income distribution and protection objectives. The ability to successfully reduce tariffs depends on measures taken to alleviate fiscal and balance of payments constraints.