Domestic Revenue Mobilization and Debt Relief: The Lack of Any Link

As the global financial community considers how to extend debt relief accompanied by IMF adjustment programs to vulnerable low-income countries, the issue of policy conditions for fiscal adjustment will inevitably arise. This paper considers the effectiveness of conditions related to domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) in the last systematic round of debt relief in the early 2000s Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (HIPC/MDRI). We find that debt relief had no impact on low-income countries’ DRM. Countries benefitting from debt relief had roughly the same DRM as those that did not. And DRM grew only slightly over time for both sets of countries.

In the months to come there will be pressure to use debt restructuring and leverage to accelerate fiscal reforms and boost domestic revenue mobilization so that LICs can be seen to be contributing “their fair share” to economic recovery and transformation. Experience with the HIPC/MDRI tells us that we must be realistic in our expectations: external forces have limited impact unless combined with strong internal will and implementation capacity.

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