In This Review

Taxation, Responsiveness, and Accountability in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Dynamics of Tax Bargaining
Taxation, Responsiveness, and Accountability in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Dynamics of Tax Bargaining
By Wilson Prichard
Cambridge University Press, 2015, 308 pp
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Political scientists generally assume that citizens who pay more taxes are more likely to demand that governments respond better to their needs. Yet as Prichard notes, the actual details of this bargain have rarely been carefully documented. This finely crafted book examines the politics of taxation in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya and shows clearly that in each case, increases in taxation have indeed been accompanied by greater government accountability to citizens, although there were substantial differences in how this actually happened. Open public resistance to increased taxation in Ghana, for instance, put pressure on the government to link the taxes to specific improvements. In Ethiopia, in contrast, a long tradition of authoritarian rule reduced the scope of protests when the government levied new taxes. An array of other factors also shape tax bargaining, including the overall stability of the government, the fiscal pressures it faces, and the amount of influence exerted by the business community and civil society. Prichard’s fine book is aided by his analytic acumen and the richness of the empirical data he has gathered.