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Mr. Bernardin Akitoby, Mr. Jiro Honda, and Keyra Primus
Raising revenues has been a formidable challenge for fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS), a fact confirmed once again in the COVID-19 crisis. Nonetheless, achieving sizable gains in tax collection in fragile environments is not impossible. This paper—with empirical analyses and case studies—contributes to policy discussions on tax reform in such challenging environments. Our analyses show that many FCS achieved some recovery of tax revenues, even though they found it challenging to sustain the momentum beyond three years. We also find that changes in the quality of institutions (e.g., government effectiveness and control of corruption) are a key contributory factor to their tax performance (much more so than for non-FCS). Next, we look into the tax increase episodes of four countries (Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, and the Solomon Islands). Although each FCS is unique, their experiences suggest two lessons: (i) tax reforms can be pursued even with initially weak institutions; and (ii) strong political commitment is important to sustain reform efforts and realize long-lasting, sizable gains.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.
Sierra Leone is a fragile state. Since emerging from a decade-long civil war in 2001, the country has made notable economic progress but has also suffered occasional setbacks, such as the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic of 2014. A three-year ECF arrangement was approved June 2017 to help address Sierra Leone’s macroeconomic weaknesses—in particular, low revenue, elevated inflation, high public debt, and inadequate foreign exchange reserve buffers—which had been exacerbated by the Ebola crisis and a collapse in iron ore prices (Country Report No. 17/154). However, the program went off track shortly after approval as lackluster revenue performance and expenditure overruns led to a budget cash shortfall and a growing stock of budget arrears. With the authorities unable to take corrective actions ahead of the March 2018 presidential elections the first review of the program was put on hold. Since then elections have produced a new government, marking the first change of power in ten years. This government has taken a number of corrective actions over the last six months with the aim of reviving the program engagement with the IMF.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.

Abstract

The region is seeing a modest growth uptick, but this is not uniform and the medium-term outlook remains subdued. Growth is projected to rise to 3.4 percent in 2018, from 2.8 percent in 2017, on the back of improved global growth, higher commodity prices, and continued strong public spending. About ¾ of the countries in the region are predicted to experience faster growth. Beyond 2018, growth is expected to plateau below 4 percent, modestly above population growth, reflecting continued sluggishness in the oil-exporting countries and sustained growth in non-resource-intensive countries. A number of countries (Burundi, DRC, South Sudan, and parts of the Sahel) remain locked in internal conflict resulting in record levels of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, with adverse spillovers to neighboring countries.

Céline Allard

Abstract

Growth momentum in sub-Saharan Africa remains fragile, marking a break from the rapid expansion witnessed since the turn of the millennium. 2016 was a difficult year for many countries, with regional growth dipping to 1.4 percent—the lowest level of growth in more than two decades. Most oil exporters were in recession, and conditions in other resource-intensive countries remained difficult. Other nonresource-intensive countries however, continued to grow robustly. A modest recovery in growth of about 2.6 percent is expected in 2017, but this falls short of past trends and is too low to put sub-Saharan Africa back on a path of rising living standards. While sub-Saharan Africa remains a region with tremendous growth potential, the deterioration in the overall outlook partly reflects insufficient policy adjustment. In that context, and to reap this potential, strong and sound domestic policy measures are needed to restart the growth engine.

Mrs. Kerstin Gerling, Mr. Paulo A Medas, Mr. Tigran Poghosyan, Juan Farah-Yacoub, and Yizhi Xu
A key objective of fiscal policy is to maintain the sustainability of public finances and avoid crises. Remarkably, there is very limited analysis on fiscal crises. This paper presents a new database of fiscal crises covering different country groups, including low-income developing countries (LIDCs) that have been mostly ignored in the past. Countries faced on average two crises since 1970, with the highest frequency in LIDCs and lowest in advanced economies. The data sheds some light on policies and economic dynamics around crises. LIDCs, which are usually seen as more vulnerable to shocks, appear to suffer the least in crisis periods. Surprisingly, advanced economies face greater turbulence (growth declines sharply in the first two years of the crisis), with half of them experiencing economic contractions. Fiscal policy is usually procyclical as countries curtail expenditure growth when economic activity weakens. We also find that the decline in economic growth is magnified if accompanied by a financial crisis.
Mr. Enrique A Gelbard, Corinne Deléchat, Ms. Ejona Fuli, Mr. Mumtaz Hussain, Mr. Ulrich Jacoby, Mrs. Dafina Glaser, Mr. Marco Pani, Mr. Gustavo Ramirez, and Rui Xu
Ce document analyse la persistance de la fragilité dans certains pays d'Afrique subsaharienne et la coexistence de multiples dimensions de la faiblesse de l'État. L'étude passe également en revue les caractéristiques de la fragilité, et ses liens avec les conflits et l'action internationale en faveur des états fragiles, avant de dresser un état des lieux de la situation et des domaines dans lesquels la résilience a progressé. Elle s'intéresse également au rôle des politiques et institutions budgétaires, et analyse les phases d'accélération et de ralentissement de la croissance. Une analyse du cas de sept pays précise certain des principaux facteurs en jeu et illustre la diversité des voies suivies, en soulignant l'importance de l'échelonnement des réformes. Enfin, l'étude se termine par une synthèse des principaux résultats et conséquences pratiques.
Lacina Balma and Mthuli Ncube
This paper analyzes the link between public investment, economic growth and debt sustainability in Sierra Leone using an inter-temporal macroeconomic model. In the model, public capital improves the productive capacity of private capital, generating positive medium and long term effects to increases in public investment. The model application indicates that a large increase in public investment would have positive macroeconomic effects in the medium term. However, since there is no free lunch, rigidities in tax adjustment would entail unrealistic and unachievable adjustment in the current spending to cover recurrent costs and ensure debt sustainability. A more ambitious increase in public investment would entail more fiscal adjustment, particularly if external commercial loans are secured to complement the adjustment. The model simulations also emphasize the importance of improvements in the structural economic conditions to reap growth dividends. In addition, even if the macroeconomic implications of public investment scaling-up can be favorable in the long term under changes in certain structural conditions, downside risks such as terms of trade shifts and Ebola-induced productivity shortfall expose the country to increased risk of unsustainable debt dynamics. This underscores the need to remove bottlenecks to growth and maintain prudent borrowing policies.
Mr. Enrique A Gelbard, Corinne Deléchat, Ms. Ejona Fuli, Mr. Mumtaz Hussain, Mr. Ulrich Jacoby, Mrs. Dafina Glaser, Mr. Marco Pani, Mr. Gustavo Ramirez, and Rui Xu
This paper analyzes the persistence of fragility in some sub-Saharan African states and the multiple dimensions of state weakness that are simultaneously at play. This study also provides an overview of the analytics of fragility, conflict, and international engagement with fragile states before turning to an assessment of the current state of affairs and the areas in which there has been progress in building resilience. The paper also looks at the role of fiscal policies and institutions and analyzes growth accelerations and decelerations. Seven country case studies help identify more concretely some key factors at play, and the diversity of paths followed, with an emphasis on the sequencing of reforms. The paper concludes with a summary of the main findings and policy implications.