Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Local government finance

Resourcing local government remains a central challenge to effective decentralisation. This section has content relating to different models of fiscal decentralisation, options for identifying new sources of local revenue, such as local property tax; and strategies for improving collection and deployment of own-source revenue. It also offers information about improving the borrowing potential of local government, innovative financing models such as municipal bonds, shared services, and public private partnerships.



Structural reform, revenue adequacy and optimal tax assignment in local government

A striking feature of local government reform in many Commonwealth countries has been a heavy reliance on structural reform, often in the form of forced local council amalgamation. This paper argues that the long-run success of structural change in local government hinges on several key factors, not least that voluntary rather than compulsory council mergers have a far greater chance of success. A second key ingredient resides in a high degree of local autonomy in both the composition and operation of decentralized governmental functions. A third vital factor lies in ensuring that revenue and tax assignment is sufficient to provide local government with financial autonomy. Finally, adequate powers of taxation need to be accorded to local government and this requires careful consideration of the types of taxes most suited to local government.

Author: Lorenzo Robotti, Brian Dollery Publisher: university of Technology, Sydney Publication year: may 2009

Taxing property in a neo-developmental state: The politics of urban land value capture in Rwanda and Ethiopia

Of the African states experiencing sustained growth and poverty reduction in recent decades, Rwanda and Ethiopia stand out due to the scope of their development visions and relatively effective state-driven transformation, leading them to be compared to the East Asian ‘developmental states’. This article argues that these two states are better conceived as ‘neo-developmental’ due to important differences in the international and national constraints they face compared with the East Asian ‘tigers’. One effect of these differences is the difficulty of attracting investment into manufacturing industry, and the consequent concentration of capital in high-end urban real estate. This underscores the need for effective land value capture and property taxation, which featured strongly in the East Asian cases. Currently, however, both Rwanda and Ethiopia lack effective mechanisms for capturing the value of urban property in a way that is sustainable, redistributive and developmental. The article explores the politics of efforts to introduce property tax in both cases. It argues that property taxation has been obstructed by conflicting imperatives on land reform and tax reform, alongside resistance from vested interests created by the rapid generation of real estate-based wealth in the absence of other sufficiently lucrative investment options.

Author: Tom Goodfellow Publisher: African Affairs Publication year: 2017

Central-Local Government Roles and Relationships in Property Taxation

Should central or local governments be responsible for collection and administration of property taxes? There is great variation in practice across the continent, but one particularly significant divide is that between francophone and anglophone countries. The former commonly adopt centralised systems, while the latter usually decentralise key aspects of property taxation such as collection and administration. This divide has its roots in different modalities of colonial rule, but was exaggerated through the trend towards decentralised governance that took hold in the 1990s, supported by Anglo-American development assistance. However, a number of anglophone African countries have attempted to partially reverse fiscal decentralisation since the late 2000s particularly with respect to collection of the tax. International debate is increasing about which level of government should tax property, but currently there is little by way of an evidence base on the relative benefits of each approach. This policy brief explores some of the strengths and weaknesses of decentralised versus centralised approaches, the incentives they create for government authorities to collect the tax, and some of the political challenges of rearranging central-local relations. It suggests that the question of whether to centralise or decentralise the tax as a whole oversimplifies the problem. Property taxation is made up of a number of distinct processes, some of which may be better situated at national or local government level depending on the context. Before disaggregating property taxation into its key constituent elements, some common general arguments for taxing property at a local versus central level are considered.

Author: Tom Goodfellow Publisher: International Centre for Tax and Development Publication year: 2017

Handbook of Research on Sub-National Governance and Development

The Handbook of Research on Sub-National Governance and Development is a pivotal reference source for the latest scholarly material on the intersection between local and national politics, analysing how this relationship affects nations’ economy and administration. The new book aims to expand the knowledge-base of alternative approaches to local, regional, and national governance and development, and fills the void in current research and policy literature by exposing theoretical and practical ideas about the contribution that subnational political institutions can make to national development. 

Author: Publisher: Eris D. Schoburgh, Roberta Ryan Publication year: 2017

Local Government in the South Pacific Islands

In this paper we seek to answer some basic questions about the condition of local government in the Pacific. Firstly, we examine what is meant by ‘local government’ in the various islands and for that matter how Pacific Island states have perceived and accepted local government institutions in practice; second, we ask basic questions about existing legal and constitutional recognition and powers; and third, we provide initial findings on current per capita expenditure and local government financial viability in a number of Pacific cities and towns. We also make some observations on current moves towards local government reform.

Author: Graham Hassall, Feue Tipu Publisher: University of Technology, Sydney Publication year: 2008

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