This paper investigates the empirical characteristics of income inequality in China and a panel of BRIC+ countries over the period 1980–2013, with a focus on the redistributive contribution of fiscal policy. Using instrumental variable techniques to deal with potential endogeneity, we find evidence supporting the hypothesis of the existence of a Kuznets curve—an inverted Ushaped relationship between income inequality and economic development—in China and the panel of BRIC+ countries. In the case of China, the empirical results indicate that government spending and taxation have opposing effects on income inequality. While government spending appears to have a worsening impact, taxation improves income distribution. Even though the redistributive effect of fiscal policy in China appears to be stronger than what we identify in the BRIC+ panel, it is not large enough to compensate for the adverse impact of other influential factors.
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.