|Ethiopia Table of Contents
Resources were allocated among the various sectors of the economy differently in the imperial and revolutionary periods. Under the emperor, the government dedicated about 36 percent of the annual budget to national defense and maintenance of internal order. Toward the end of the imperial period, the budgets of the various ministries increased steadily while tax yields stagnated. With a majority of the population living at a subsistence level, there was limited opportunity to increase taxes on personal or agricultural income. Consequently, the imperial government relied on indirect taxes (customs, excise, and sales) to generate revenues. For instance, in the early l970s taxes on foreign trade accounted for close to twofifths of the tax revenues and about one-third of all government revenues, excluding foreign grants. At the same time, direct taxes accounted for less than one-third of tax revenues.
The revolutionary government changed the tax structure in 1976, replacing taxes on agricultural income and rural land with a rural land-use fee and a new tax on income from agricultural activities. The government partially alleviated the tax collection problem that existed during the imperial period by delegating the responsibility for collecting the fee and tax on agriculture to peasant associations, which received a small percentage of revenues as payment. Whereas total revenue increased significantly, to about 24 percent of GDP in EFY l988/89, tax revenues remained stagnant at around l5 percent of GDP. In EFY l974/75, total revenue and tax revenue had been l3 and ll percent of GDP, respectively. Despite the 1976 changes in the tax structure, the government believed that the agricultural income tax was being underpaid, largely because of underassessments by peasant associations.
The government levied taxes on exports and imports. In 1987 Addis Ababa taxed all exports at 2 percent and levied an additional export duty and a surtax on coffee. Import taxes included customs duties and a 19 percent general import transaction tax. Because of a policy of encouraging new capital investment, the government exempted capital goods from all import taxes. Among imports, intermediate goods were taxed on a scale ranging from 0 to 35 percent, consumer goods on a scale of 0 to l00 percent, and luxuries at a flat rate of 200 percent. High taxes on certain consumer goods and luxury items contributed to a flourishing underground economy in which the smuggling of some imports, particularly liquor and electronic goods, played an important part.
Although tax collection procedures proved somewhat ineffective, the government maintained close control of current and capital expenditures. The Ministry of Finance oversaw procurements and audited ministries to ensure that expenditures conformed to budget authorizations.
Current expenditures as a proportion of GDP grew from l3.2 percent in EFY l974/75 to 26.1 percent in EFY l987/88. This growth was largely the result of the increase in expenditures for defense and general services following the 1974 revolution. During the l977-78 Ogaden War, for example, when the Somali counteroffensive was under way, defense took close to 60 percent of the budget. That percentage declined after l979, although it remained relatively higher than the figure for the prerevolutionary period. Between l974 and l988, about 40 to 50 percent of the budget was dedicated to defense and government services.
Economic and social services received less than 30 percent of government funds until EFY l972/73, when a rise in educational outlays pushed them to around 40 percent. Under the Mengistu regime, economic and social service expenditures remained at prerevolutionary levels: agriculture's share was 2 percent, while education and health received an average of l4 and 4 percent, respectively.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress