Overview for Development Policy as Public Finance
This book is written out of a conviction that development economics needs to draw more heavily and systematically on recent advances in knowledge made in public economics, especially where the formulation and analysis of development policy are concerned. The central questions--how to raise and spend revenues well, in the sense of promoting development--are surely normative; but whether something is done 'well' must also be judged in relation to what is actually feasible. With unrestricted lump-sum transfers ruled out in practice, the design of policy is inherently concerned with considerations of the second-best. This awkward fact besets the analysis of interventions in all areas of economic activity, from international trade to small-scale finance. Debates over whether and how to promote particular sectors or activities at the expense of others, when viewed from this perspective, draw attention away from the humdrum, but decidedly more important goal of raising revenue efficiently and with due regard for equity. This stricture applies to international trade, industry, and agriculture, as well as to the familiar choice among different forms of taxes, seigniorage, and debt. At the same time, all proposals to spend public funds, introduce or change regulations, and reform policy should be subjected to a rigorous and uniform system of appraisal, especially when there is a substantial premium on public funds. The methods of social cost-benefit analysis, based on shadow prices, provide just the apparatus that is needed for this purpose. This apparatus and its many applications are developed at length, in the hope of promoting its use as a matter of course.
Clive Bell (Author)
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