A new dataset is throwing fresh light on old assumptions about government revenue in developing countries

We know that public finance statistics are open to interpretation. And we know that creative accounting can turn a fiscal deficit into a surplus, or obscure the extent of under-investment in public infrastructure. But most of us expect that the fiscal fundamentals are reported accurately for most countries in the world. That is, we – as citizens, as economic advisers, as investors, as aid donors, as bankers, and as managers of the world economy – should be able lay our hands on accurate information about, for example, how much revenue Peru raises relative to Gross Domestic Production; how that figure has changed over the past 20 years, and how it compares with Mexico over the same period. And we imagine that we can access all this information online from some large well-resourced international organisation like the OECD or the IMF.

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