We analyze factors driving persistently higher financial intermediation costs in low-income countries (LICs) relative to emerging market (EMs) country comparators. Using the net interest margin as a proxy for financial intermediation costs at the bank level, we find that within LICs a substantial part of the variation in interest margins can be explained by bank-specific factors: margins tend to increase with higher riskiness of credit portfolio, lower bank capitalization, and smaller bank size. Overall, we find that concentrated market structures and lack of competition in LICs banking systems and institutional weaknesses constitute the key impediments preventing financial intermediation costs from declining. Our results provide strong evidence that policies aimed at fostering banking competition and strengthening institutional frameworks can reduce intermediation costs in LICs.
Mr. Ali Ibrahim, Mr. Arvind Subramanian, and Mr. Luis A. Torres-Castro
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.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
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Econometric results from an analysis of the determinants of military expenditure in 125 countries during 1972-88 are presented. The dependent variable is the ratio of military expenditure to GDP; included among the explanatory variables are economic and financial indicators, political variables summarizing the form of government, and demographic and geographic features of nations. The results strongly confirm the importance of these variables in explaining cross-country differences in levels of military expenditure.