On the Economics of Ex-Post Transfers in a Federal State: A Mechanism Design Approach

As a common feature in many federal states grants-in aid are payed to jurisdictions ex post, i.e. after local policy measures have chosen. We show that the central government cannot offer grants ex ante in a federal states with informational asymmetries as well as inter-temporal commitment problems. Local governments’ incentives to provide public goods are distorted if they rely on federal grants-in-aid offered ex post. Furthermore it becomes obvious that local governments are apt to substitute tax revenue for higher grants-in-aid if relevant local data are unobservable for the central government. To which extend ex post transfers mitigate local governments’ incentives crucially depends on the information structure predominant in the federation.

01. February 2008

Authors Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher T. Kuhn

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