The impact of fiscal decentralization and market transition on local public finance in China: fiscal inadequacy and unmet social security needs


One of the frequently observed issues related to fiscal decentralisation in developing and transition countries is that subnational governments may not have adequate resources to finance the expenditure responsibilities decentralised to them. This often results in expenditure needs not being met in poorer areas. In China, fiscal decentralisation has taken place in an extreme form, where the social security responsibility, a conventional central government function, has been devolved to subnational governments during the fiscal reforms. While existing studies have anatomised the problem of unmet fiscal needs in poorer areas of China using economic and political economy theories of fiscal federalism, they tend to under-estimate or neglect the fiscal needs induced by market transition—the increasing demand for social security by workers from state and non-state sectors since the mid-late 1990s. This research illustrates that excess fiscal decentralisation, as in the case of China, could also create serious fiscal burdens for relatively affluent local areas and generate unmet social security needs in these localities. It is discovered that in response to the emerging social security burdens, even the relatively affluent local governments are forced to adopt measures that may counter the intent of social benefit programs or produce other detrimental consequences. In addition, this dissertation applies statistical analysis to ascertain a few inconclusive issues raised by the China-specific literature. It is perceived that the negative correlation between the share of consolidated provincial budgetary spending on social security and health sector has become stronger and more significant in more recent time. This suggests that the expansion of social security expenses at subnational levels might have bid away budgetary resources for health. The result from the multiple regression analysis indicates that the degree of market transition has explanatory power on the size of provincial government, even when a number of other independent variables are controlled for. However, the explanatory power of market transition on the size of central-provincial fiscal transfer is not robust

Similar works

This paper was published in UCL Discovery.

Having an issue?

Is data on this page outdated, violates copyrights or anything else? Report the problem now and we will take corresponding actions after reviewing your request.