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Global Tax Program

COVID-19 Response and GTP Fiscal Pillar

  • Emergency Fiscal Response to COVID-19

    In May 2020, the GTP Steering Committee (SC) created a temporal Fiscal Policy Pillar to accommodate rapid policy responses in addressing the economic and fiscal impact of COVID-19. The objective of the pillar is to (a) support governments in mitigating the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through effective, efficient and balanced fiscal policy responses designed to contribute sustainable and inclusive growth; and (b) facilitate accountability, monitoring of and reporting on resource use for the COVID-19 response. The pillar provides just-in-time advice to governments on fiscal policy strategy and detailed fiscal policy measures while informing the design of the World Bank’s development policy financing and other forms of budgetary support linked to COVID-19. 

    Since its inception, the Fiscal Policy Pillar has supported a full range of fiscal policy responses including macro-fiscal policy, domestic resource mobilization, expenditure policy, and fiscal risk management. The pillar has also contributed to important cross cutting themes such as poverty and distributional impact, transparency and accountability in fiscal policy measures addressing the crisis.  The activities that are underway leverage the full range of the World Bank’s expertise in fiscal policy across the global practices dealing with Macroeconomics Trade and Investment, Governance, Finance Competitiveness and Investment, and Poverty

    To this date, total donor commitments amount to US$5.5 million from France, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

  • Supporting Developing Countries from Immediate Crisis Response to Fiscal Consolidation

    The activities under the Fiscal Policy Pillar (FPP) support all phases of fiscal responses to macro shocks. Projects under FPP support governments across the full spectrum of emergency responses, from the initial fiscal assessment of the COVID-19 crisis to developing short-term fiscal responses and designing longer-term recovery and consolidation strategies. Activities supported under FPP can be grouped under three phases:

    Phase I – COVID Fiscal Impact Assessment

    Initial crisis response efforts are focused on determining the impact of the crisis on poor and other vulnerable groups, fiscal risks, revenue, and growth. Activities in this phase provide governments with critical information to inform their decision-making process through a variety of tools:

    • Household surveys. These high-frequency surveys gather information on households’ income, including data on their access to government support programs, their needs for support, etc. Activities in Cambodia, Lao, and Timor-Leste employed similar household surveys. The data collected through these surveys are used in the microsimulation tools in this phase.
    • Small and medium enterprise (SME) surveys. SME surveys are particularly important in countries with large informal sectors. The SME survey instrument helps determine the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on SMEs and identify constraints. SMEs have generally been considered a vulnerable group, reflecting their limited financial capacity to weather economic downturns. This survey instrument, implemented by activities in Democratic Republic of Congo and North Macedonia, is well-established and has been repurposed for the crisis response.
    • Microsimulation and model development. Economic modeling gives an essential input to the policy formulation process. For example, under the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) framework, this instrument can help assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the poor as well as the distributional impacts of existing fiscal policies. Microsimulation activities generally include transfer of the models to government counterparts along with training.
    • Fiscal incidence analyses. This instrument evaluates the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on different income groups as well as the effects of government taxation and social spending on poverty and inequality. Activities in Armenia, Cambodia, Djibouti, Fiji, Grenada, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Philippines, and Tunisia employed fiscal incidence analyses to inform the government policy.
    • Revenue forecasting. The economic downturn in many countries is having a significant impact on revenue mobilization. To determine the available fiscal space for government interventions, the World Bank is supporting revenue forecasting in Albania and the setting of post-pandemic policy targets in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    • Contingent liability assessments. Contingent liabilities are formal or implied guarantees extended by the government to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or private sector operators. Under the activity in Zimbabwe, the World Bank is drawing-up an inventory of liabilities across various sectors to determine the overall size and composition of the liabilities. An assessment of fiscal risks stemming from inflation will complement the inventory, which helps form an overall, fiscal risk picture. The activity in Zimbabwe will also produce templates for gathering information about liabilities and guidelines for managing them.

    Phase II – COVID Fiscal Response

    Fiscal Pillar activities under the second phase focus on assessing the impact of proposed fiscal interventions of governments and supporting the design of the interventions themselves. The interventions aim to assist governments manage their cash balance, prioritize spending and investments, and mobilize revenue and private sector financing. Key activities include:

    • Assessment of fiscal policies. Several of the projects are assessing the distributional impact of the stimulus measures proposed by governments, utilizing the same type of surveys and models highlighted under the first phase.
    • Cash management.  In a rapidly declining situation, revenues and increasing expenditures, cash management becomes critical. In Zambia, the World Bank supports the government in assessing the monitoring of revenue and expenditures, connectivity between revenue collection and integrated financial management systems (IFMIS), linkages between medium-term plans and budgets as well as interagency coordination. This work will be followed-up with capacity building activities.
    • Contingency funds. In Dominica, the World Bank has helped develop operational and management guidelines for the Vulnerability Risk and Resilience Fund, establishing investment parameters, goals, conditions for disbursement, capitalization targets, accountability mechanisms, etc. The Fund serves as a contingency in emergencies so as to avoid borrowing or the halting of public investments.
    • Public investment management emergency guidelines. In Zimbabwe, guidelines have been developed with the World Bank support to improve the transparency surrounding emergency public investment decisions by helping address the conflicting role posed by agencies both approving spends and submitting proposals for funding and by establishing procedures and rules governing the decision-making process itself.
    • COVID-19 expenditure tracking. In the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) region and the Philippines, Fiscal Pillar projects are supporting governments track COVID related spending.
    • Revenue mobilization. Support for revenue responses encompasses the modeling of tax policy changes such as the elimination of certain VAT exemptions (Dominican Republic). On the tax administration side, activities count efforts to improve tax compliance and risk management (Guatemala) and estimation of the revenue potential by modernizing valuation methods for property tax and stamp duties (India).
    • Private capital mobilization. In North Macedonia, the reduction in the public funding for private sector innovation and incubation reopened discussions about the creation of two public-private investment funds. The World Bank is supporting the government in conducting the pre-feasibility study, drawing-up the terms of reference for the private fund manager and the criteria for evaluating proposals from potential fund managers, and preparing the legal statutes for the entities.

    Phase III – COVID Recovery

    Longer-term recovery and fiscal consolidation efforts may come to the fore in governments’ emergency responses. Support for longer-term recovery activities includes:

    • Fiscal rules framework. In Dominica, the World Bank has supported authorities in drafting a Fiscal Responsibility Framework to facilitate increased budget discipline and adherence to stated targets for the primary balance and public debt levels.
    • Medium-Term Fiscal Frameworks. In Angola, the World Bank is supporting the development of a Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, including fiscal sustainability analysis with modules simulating shocks to oil prices, risks to SOE finances, and impacts of climate change.
    • Civil service and payroll reform. In some countries, especially small island economies, the public payroll represents a very large share of government expenditures and, thus, becomes the subject of intense scrutiny in order to keep it under control or to increase the quality of public expenditures (El Salvador and the Pacific Island States).
  • This section features result stories from select projects supported by the GTP Fiscal Pillar:

    Dominica: COVID Response and Fiscal Resilience

    Challenge:  Dominica is a small, middle-income island economy whose macroeconomic outlook has been severely disrupted by the pandemic. The economic slowdown has been precipitated by the stop in tourism along with domestic COVID-19 lock-down and other containment measures implemented as early as March 2020. While the outbreak has been well-contained, economic activity suffered, and fiscal costs associated with control and containment measures significantly increased. The authorities are now focusing increasingly on how to restart the economy in a more sustainable and inclusive way, and stabilize the fiscal and debt situation.

    The 2021 fiscal deficit is forecast at 7.2% of GDP, spurring a debt-to-GDP ratio of 100% by end of 2022 under the baseline scenario. This contrasts with the pre-crisis debt projection of 78.5%. The Ministry of Finance of Dominica was overwhelmed by the crisis, with a very small complement of officials tasked with addressing these significant fiscal challenges. Furthermore, upon entering the crisis, Dominica was still recovering from the tropical storm Erika in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017, the latter causing an estimated 226% of GDP in losses and damages.  As a result, fiscal challenges became overwhelming after the onset of the pandemic. This project responds to the MoF’s request for support to budget planning, budget forecasting, and general budget preparation and prioritization in response to the pandemic.

    Approach & Implementation:

    The project team supported the government in taking the following four actions:

    • Fiscal Rules and Responsibility Framework. The World Bank supported the authorities in drafting a Fiscal Responsibility Framework (FRF) to facilitate increased budget discipline and adherence to stated targets.  The Framework establishes clear targets for the primary balance and public debt levels.
    • Operational Guidelines for the Contingency Fund. Operational and management guidelines for the Vulnerability Risk and Resilience Fund have been drafted in close consultation with the World Bank. The Guidelines establish investment parameters, goals, conditions for disbursement, capitalization targets, accountability mechanisms, etc.
    • Public Procurement Reform. Dominica spends significant fiscal resources on goods and services through its procurement system, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters and other climate change-induced shocks such as floods and sea-level rise. Public procurement in Dominica had been governed by an outdated, inefficient set of regulations that neither reflect sustainability or climate resilient requirements nor the many advances that have come up as it relates to public procurement, including e-procurement initiatives. The World Bank has provided technical support to the Dominican authorities in developing a new Public Procurement Act and implementing regulations.
    • Social Programming reform. The World Bank provided technical support in strengthening social programming and efficiency, particularly in response to vulnerable household needs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and in preparation for future climate disasters. An analysis of Dominica’s social protection and labor market programs indicated that the management and the targeting of programs to the most vulnerable segments of the population could be significantly improved.

    Results:

    The Fiscal Rule and Responsibility Framework was introduced to the Parliament on June 28, 2021, and a revised version of the FRF was approved in November 2021. The measure is intended to turn the primary deficit into a surplus by 2023.

    The Operational Guidelines for the Contingency Fund were approved in February 2022. This Fund will serve as a contingency in response to future emergencies so as to avoid borrowing or the halting of public investments.

    Dominica passed the new Public Procurement Act and approved the regulatory framework. These measures will allow to modernize the procurement system and improve procurement requirements with sustainability and climate resilience.

    With the World Bank’s technical assistance, the government established and institutionalized a Single Beneficiary Registry and a management information system (MIS) as a main pillar to improve efficiency and effectiveness of social protection delivery in Dominica. Both the registry and MIS will enhance the digital registration process and payment reconciliation mechanism by integrating these mechanisms with databases of key social programs and act as a new intake instrument for the Public Assistance Program. Furthermore, the registry will improve continuity of social protection services during future shocks given that it will be digital and not depend on paper or inaccessible records. The new registry will also increase its interoperability with DRM systems and tracking of relevant socioeconomic indicators, such as age, location, disability status, and poverty status.

     

     

    Zimbabwe Managing Public Resources More Effectively

    Challenge:  Zimbabwe’s GDP is expected to rebound to a 5.1% growth rate after a two-year contraction. Continued implementation of disinflation policies has reduced annual inflation to 50% in August 2021 from a high of 838% in July 2020. Although an improved economic environment has eased social conditions, poverty levels remain high. The economic and social shocks have significantly narrowed the fiscal space to respond to the pandemic. The government capacity to undertake analysis of fiscal risks and manage such shocks remains limited. Therefore, the World Bank has been requested to provide support for managing fiscal risks and promoting the efficient use of public resource to support those in need, while maintaining stability.

    Approach & Implementation: The project team reviewed the recently approved framework for managing guarantees and on-lending and identified the following areas for further improvement: (i) reporting and monitoring risks; (ii) risk evaluation including credit risk assessment scorecard; and (iii) additions to the legal framework. Scenario analysis and training were delivered to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) staff to help identify and quantify fiscal risks from inflation. In addition, the team presented to MOFED an analysis of the distributional impacts of COVID-19 and effectiveness of social protection policies based on rapid household surveys.

    Results:

    The review of contingent liabilities showed increased transparency in reporting and monitoring; however, assessing the magnitude of the contingent liabilities in 2020 is challenging. Despite the data challenges, fiscal risks from inflation and contingent liabilities have been disclosed for the first time in 2021 and form an integral part of the 2022 budget proposal.

    The economic and social impact of the pandemic on lives and livelihoods of Zimbabweans was significant as it was associated with a rise in unemployment, food insecurity, and poverty. The analysis of the distributional impacts of COVID-19 and effectiveness of social protection policies based on the household surveys showed that the coverage of safety net programs remains low relative to the needs, reaching less than a fifth of the population while the share of extreme poor alone is almost half of the population. The World Bank analysis will help inform the government’s policy on safety net programs.

     

    Guatemala Strengthening Domestic Resource Mobilization

    Challenge:  The pandemic ended three decades of economic growth in Guatemala. In response, the government swiftly scaled-up safety net coverage from 5% to 80% of households, with poverty increasing from 45.6% to 47.0% (2020). Such fiscal measures increase fiscal pressures while revenue mobilization becomes as one of the foremost fiscal challenges. However, currently a political space for instituting tax policy reforms is limited, leaving improvements in tax administration as the only feasible option. This project seeks to strengthen the Tax Administration Authority’s capacity to identify, prevent and deter tax non-compliance.

    Approach and Implementation: Based on the results of a pilot for a Compliance Indicators System (SIC) conducted by the Tax Administration Authority of Guatemala (SAT) through the support of World Bank, the project team has provided SAT with a set of recommendations to implement effective tax compliance controls such as streamlining processes for cross-checking information (using e-invoice, taxpayer registry, national ID, etc.) and analytics with a risk-based approach.

    Results: The SIC pilot identified more than 8,000 taxpayers with relevant inconsistences, presenting a potential of increasing tax collection by around 1.6–2.4%. The government is currently issuing a new policy to sanction those taxpayers with recurrent inconsistences, excluding them from participating in public tenders. As a result of these actions, the government will implement standardized processes, information systems and personnel with capacity to structure an initial tax compliance risk management framework to identify, prevent and deter tax non-compliance.

  • Anders Hjorth Agerskov, Fiscal Pillar Workstream Lead, aagerskov@worldbank.org 

    Robert Johann Utz, Lead Economist, rutz1@worldbank.org 

    Gokuldas Pai, Operations Analyst, gpai1@worldbank.org