General equilibrium measures of agricultural policy bias in fifteen developing countries uri icon


  • In this paper, we present a comparative analysis of the extent to which indirect taxes, tariffs, and exchange rates affected relative price incentives for agricultural production in a representative sample of 15 developing countries in the 1990s. Empirical studies from the 1980s, using partial equilibrium methodologies, supported the view that policies in many developing countries imparted a major incentive bias against agriculture. Eliminating this bias was one of the goals of policy reform strategies, including structural adjustment programs, supported by the World Bank and others; and many countries undertook such reforms in the 1990s. In our sample, general equilibrium analysis indicates that, in the 1990s, the economywide system of indirect taxes, including tariffs and export taxes, significantly discriminated against agriculture in only one country, was largely neutral in five, provided a moderate subsidy to agriculture in four, and strongly favored agriculture in five. Earlier work assumed that overvaluation of the exchange rate would hurt agriculture, which was assumed to be largely tradable. In a general equilibrium setting, changes in the exchange rate can as demonstrated in this paper lead to anything between strongly increasing and decreasing relative agriculture/non-agriculture incentives, depending on relative trade shares. We conclude that, whatever incentive bias there was in the 1980s, it has mostly disappeared by the 1990s. We also find that it is difficult to generalize-country specific circumstances greatly affect the relative impact of trade policies on agriculture and the rural economy. -- Authors' Abstract

publication date

  • 2002