Middle East and Central Asia > United Arab Emirates

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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper discusses measures to strengthen fiscal policy and budget frameworks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It provides an overview of government’s revenue and expenditure developments, and presents fiscal sustainability analysis that is most relevant to countries with large hydrocarbon wealth such as the UAE. The paper discusses measures to contain expenditure growth—controlling the public wage bill, reducing subsidies and transfers, and stabilizing other expense in real terms. It also proposes options to increase nonhydrocarbon revenue such as broadening corporate income tax with lower rates, introducing a low rate-broad based value added tax, and levying an excise tax on automobiles.
Mr. Christian H Ebeke and Mr. Constant A Lonkeng Ngouana
This paper shows that high energy subsidies and low public social spending can emerge as an equilibrium outcome of a political game between the elite and the middle-class when the provision of public goods is subject to bottlenecks, reflecting weak domestic institutions. We test this and other predictions of our model using a large cross-section of emerging markets and low-income countries. The main empirical challenge is that subsidies and social spending could be jointly determined (e.g., at the time of the budget), leading to a simultaneity bias in OLS estimates. To address this concern, we adopt an identification strategy whereby subsidies in a given country are instrumented by the level of subsidies in neighboring countries. Our Instrumental Variable (IV) estimations suggest that public expenditures in education and health were on average lower by 0.6 percentage point of GDP in countries where energy subsidies were 1 percentage point of GDP higher. Moreover, we find that the crowding-out was stronger in the presence of weak domestic institutions, narrow fiscal space, and among the net oil importers.
International Monetary Fund. Fiscal Affairs Dept.

Abstract

Fiscal risks remain significant in both advanced and emerging market and developing economies. Fiscal policy continues to play an essential role in building confidence and, where appropriate, sustaining aggregate demand. According to this issue of the Fiscal Monitor, strengthening fiscal frameworks—particularly to manage public finance risks and ensure debt sustainability—must be part of the fiscal policy response. Countries should seize the moment created by lower oil prices to start the process of energy taxation and energy subsidy reform. Finally, fiscal policy can contribute substantially to macroeconomic stability, through the workings of automatic stabilizers. By doing so, fiscal policy can also unlock significant growth dividends.

International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

The Arab Spring holds the promise of improved living standards and a more prosperous future for the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa region. At the same time, the region is witnessing uncertainty and economic pressures from domestic and external sources, which will likely be exacerbated by the recent worsening of the global economy. The main challenge in the short term will be to manage expectations while maintaining economic stability. To that end, better-targeted subsidies and transfers will help free up resources for investment in infrastructure, education, and health. Policies aimed at fostering inclusive growth will also help cement the longer-term benefits of the ongoing changes in the region. In the Caucasus and Central Asia, the economic outlook is broadly positive. Exports and remittances--key growth drivers in 2010--are continuing to grow solidly, helping the recovery gain firm momentum. At the same time, uncertainties over the robustness of the global recovery constitute a downside risk to the growth outlook. Key challenges facing the region over the medium term are to create jobs and foster high and inclusive growth.

Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, Mr. Benedict J. Clements, Mr. Kevin Fletcher, and Ms. Gabriela Inchauste
This paper discusses issues relating to the domestic pricing of petroleum in oil-producing countries. It finds that in most major oil-exporting countries, government policies keep domestic prices below free-market levels, resulting in implicit subsidies that equaled 3.0 percent of GDP, on average, in 1999. Moreover, the paper argues, these petroleum subsidies are inefficient and inequitable-entailing substantial opportunity costs in terms of forgone revenue or productive spending-and also procyclical, complicating macroeconomic management. Nonetheless, the elimination of petroleum subsidies is often politically difficult, although countervailing measures and publicity campaigns can help engender support for reform.