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Ruud A. de Mooij and Mr. Shafik Hebous
Tax provisions favoring corporate debt over equity finance (“debt bias”) are widely recognized as a risk to financial stability. This paper explores whether and how thin-capitalization rules, which restrict interest deductibility beyond a certain amount, affect corporate debt ratios and mitigate financial stability risk. We find that rules targeted at related party borrowing (the majority of today’s rules) have no significant impact on debt bias—which relates to third-party borrowing. Also, these rules have no effect on broader indicators of firm financial distress. Rules applying to all debt, in contrast, turn out to be effective: the presence of such a rule reduces the debt-asset ratio in an average company by 5 percentage points; and they reduce the probability for a firm to be in financial distress by 5 percent. Debt ratios are found to be more responsive to thin capitalization rules in industries characterized by a high share of tangible assets.
Stephanie Medina Cas, Mr. Andrew J Swiston, and Mr. Luis D Barrot
This paper studies the potential for the export sector to play a more important role in promoting growth in Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic (CAPDR) through deeper intra-regional and global trade integration. CAPDR countries have enacted many free trade agreements and other regional integration initiatives in recent years, but this paper finds that their exports remain below the norm for countries of their size. Several indexes of outward orientation are constructed and suggest that the breadth of geographic trading relationships, depth of integration into global production chains, and degree of technological sophistication of exports in CAPDR are less conducive to higher exports and growth than in fast-growing, export-oriented economies. To boost exports and growth, CAPDR should implement policies to facilitate economic integration, particularly building a customs union, harmonizing trade rules, improving logistics and infrastructure, and enhancing regional cordination.
International Monetary Fund
The paper is an elaborated report on Nicaragua’s potential economic growth. The challenges and idiosyncratic shocks were immense but the policies of better education, labor contracts, and accomplishments in public investments paved the way for movement of the economy. The external competitiveness and exchange rate assessment also have an important hand. The achievements in the electricity sector and the improvement in reforming the pension system are the prominent aspects. On the whole, the Board considers this growth as a positive trial of development in the global panorama.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper analyzes Haiti’s external competitiveness. The analysis shows that the country has been experiencing equilibrium real exchange rate appreciation pressures, which have originated more recently from the rising inflow of transfers. The paper discusses avenues for further developing Haiti’s monetary policy framework to help consolidate a stable low-inflation environment and support deepening domestic financial markets. The analysis suggests that Haiti’s monetary policy regime could be strengthened through a two-step approach. The paper also focuses on options to increase domestic revenues as a means of funding priority expenditures.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper analyzes economic performance of Ecuador under dollarization. The paper reviews the principal trade-offs normally associated with official dollarization, and their specific relevance to Ecuador. It discusses Ecuador’s performance under the dollarization regime, highlighting the country’s main achievements and challenges in the macroeconomic and structural areas. The paper draws some conclusions and discusses what dollarization implies for Ecuador’s reform agenda in the future. The paper also assesses sustainability of Ecuador’s fiscal policy and explores criteria that could guide the setting of fiscal policy in the future.
Mr. Markus Rodlauer and Mr. Alfred Schipke

Abstract

Central America has received growing attention as a region that is integrating successfully into the global economy. This paper examines—among other things—the macroeconomic and fiscal implications of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA-DR), noting that the agreement will provide a boost to the integration process. To maximize the benefits in terms of faster sustainable growth, poverty reduction, and social progress, however, the region also needs to press ahead with ambitious structural reforms to entrench macroeconomic stability and ensure an attractive environment for investment, while stepping up regional cooperation in the areas of taxes and tax administration, financial systems, and statistics.

Ms. Janet Gale Stotsky and Ms. Asegedech WoldeMariam
Central American tax systems are modern in their orientation, though there remains scope for beneficial reform. Value-added taxes are the mainstay of collections, but their performance varies. Income and property taxes remain relatively underused and should apply to higher income taxpayers more comprehensively. Tax reform needs to be mindful of global competition. Continuing improvement in administrative performance is also essential.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper analyzes growth performance and constraints for Honduras’ economy. The findings indicate that Honduras’ low growth rates in real per capita GDP reflect the influence of a combination of factors. Policy- and efficiency-related variables, exogenous shocks, and political uncertainty seem to have had less of a negative influence on growth in Honduras than they have had on the comparator groups. Instead, low growth appears to be closely related to the low productivity of labor and capital, and the poor composition of investment and inadequate physical infrastructure.
International Monetary Fund
This paper describes economic developments in Guatemala during the 1990s. The paper discusses social and institutional expenditures of the peace program. The paper highlights that Guatemala’s illiteracy rate was approximately 44 percent in 1995, the second highest in Latin America. Illiteracy is much higher in the predominantly rural departments (about 65 percent), where the indigenous population is more heavily concentrated, than in Guatemala City (16 percent) and is much higher for women (46 percent) than for men (33 percent). The paper also discusses the tax system and trade regime in Guatemala.