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Taxing Clients? How Clientelism Hurts Citizen Tax Morale in Benin: Guest post by Sanata Sy-Sahande

This is the seventh in this year’s job market series.
Developing countries regularly underperform in their capacity to collect taxes, with tax revenue to GDP ratios that are 20 to 30 percent less than those of high-income countries (Besley and Persson, 2014). This tax capacity gap represents lost revenue that could have provided much-needed public goods and services while reducing reliance on foreign aid. This issue is especially relevant in Africa, where “shadow economies” comprise up to 75% of national GDP (Schneider and Enste 2000), indicating that large swaths of these countries’ populations manage to evade taxation. What accounts for this failure to convince citizens to pay taxes?
Structural roadblocks to tax collections in developing countries include poor service quality, dysfunctional bureaucracies, and outdated equipment. In contrast, my job market paper provides a political explanation centered on clientelism, or politicians' exchange of targeted goods for votes from loyal supporters.

A spatial odyssey: The impacts of land formalization in Benin

Markus Goldstein's picture
This post is co-authored with Michael O’Sullivan.  
Effective property rights matter for development. And heck, they even got a couple of shout outs in the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals.  And we know from earlier work that weaker rights can lead to reduced agricultural productivity.  So what happens when folks move to better property rights?  

Democracy isn't dead

Markus Goldstein's picture

At least not in Benin.   This week, I take a look at interesting paper by Leonard Wantchekon documenting an experiment he did in Benin with this year’s presidential election.   In this paper, Leonard compares the results from a deliberative sharing of a candidate’s platform in a local town hall against a one-way communication of the candidate (or his broker) with a big rally.