Mr. Nalin M. Kishor, Mr. Muthukumara Mani, and Mr. Luis F. Constantino
An increasing number of tropical timber producing nations have enacted bans on export of logs. Proponents argue that a log export ban is a second-best policy tool for addressing environmental externalities; it also creates more jobs and improves scale efficiencies domestically. Theoretical arguments suggest that log export bans are largely incapable of achieving their objectives. However, little quantitative evidence exists. The authors maintain that eliminating log export bans in Costa Rica could generate economic gains as high as $14 million annually in addition to the environmental benefits.
Countries generally tax the forestry sector to achieve the twin objectives of revenue maximization and sustainability of logging levels. In an ideal world of perfect markets and information, auctions would be the best instrument to determine the price of extraction rights. However, a number of factors-including a lack of information on the forest resources under consideration, uncertainties as to the stability of property rights over time, and a lack of access to credit-have limited the use of auctions so far, particularly in low-income countries. To establish transparency of the forestry sector's financial flows, this paper discusses a radical simplification of Liberia's current timber tax structure, including a proposal to reduce the sector's current tax system to two instruments, an area tax and an export tax.