Recent studies have highlighted the adverse impact of corruption on economic performance. This paper advances the hypothesis that corruption is largely a symptom of underlying weaknesses in public policies and institutions, a formulation that provides deeper insights into economic performance than do measures of “perceived corruption.” The hypothesis is tested by assessing the relative importance of structural reforms vs. corruption in explaining macroeconomic performance in the transition economies. The paper finds that for four widely used measures of economic performance—growth, inflation, the fiscal balance, and foreign direct investment—structural reforms tend to dominate the corruption variable.
An analysis of data for 39 sub-Saharan African countries during 1985–96 indicates that the variations in tax revenue-GDP ratios within this group are influenced by economic policies and the level of corruption. Namely, these ratios rise with declining inflation, implementation of structural reforms, rising human capital (a proxy for the provision of public services by the government), and declining corruption. The paper confirms that the tax revenue ratio rises with income, and that elements of a country’s tax base (such as the share of agriculture in GDP and the degree of openness) influence tax revenue.