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International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
Economic performance has been much better than expected, in part due to the authorities’ forceful policy response. Nevertheless, Brazil’s long-standing challenges of low growth, high debt, and elevated levels of poverty and inequality have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Tragically, more than 550,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19.
Metodij Hadzi-Vaskov, Mr. Luca A Ricci, Alejandro M. Werner, and Rene Zamarripa
Do governments in Latin America tend to be optimistic when preparing budgetary projections? We address this question by constructing a novel dataset of the authorities’ fiscal forecasts in six Latin American economies using data from annual budget documents over the period 2000-2018. In turn, we compare such forecasts with the outturns reported in the corresponding budget documents of the following years to understand the evolution of fiscal forecast errors. Our findings suggest that: (i) for most countries, there is no general optimistic bias in the forecasts for the fiscal balance-to-GDP ratio (though there may be for the components); (ii) fiscal forecasts have improved for some countries over time, albeit they have worsened for others; (iii) in terms of drivers, we show that forecast errors for the fiscal balance-to-GDP ratio are positively correlated with GDP growth and terms of trade changes and negatively with GDP deflator surprises; (iv) forecast errors for public debt-to-GDP ratios are negatively associated with surprises to GDP growth; (v) lastly, budget balance rules seem to help contain the size of the fiscal forecast errors.
International Monetary Fund

Abstract

This report overviews countries fiscal actions in response to COVID-19 and discusses how governments policies should adapt to get ahead of the pandemic and set the stage for a greener, fairer, and more durable recovery. Global vaccination should be scaled up as it can save lives and will eventually pay for itself with stronger employment and economic activity. Until the pandemic is brought under control globally, fiscal policies must remain flexible and supportive, while keeping debt at a manageable level over the long term. Governments also need to adopt comprehensive policies, embedded in medium-term frameworks, to tackle inequalities—especially in access to basic public services—that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and may cause income gaps to persist. Investing in education, healthcare and early childhood development and strengthening social safety nets financed through improved tax capacity and higher progressivity, can strengthen lifetime opportunities, improve trust, and contribute to more social cohesion.

Mr. Luca A Ricci, Mr. Jorge Roldos, and Alejandro M. Werner
The fiscal policy response to the COVID-19 shock in most LAC countries was much larger than during the GFC, suggesting fiscal space was not as tight as expected. We argue that it is feasible and desirable, though not without risks, to embark in a more gradual consolidation path than currently envisaged by several countries in the region. Avoiding an early withdrawal of support in 2021 and 2022 is important given that countries are still facing high rates of contagion and deaths, vaccination will take place very slowly, the economic recovery is partial, uncertain and not strong enough to help those most affected by the twin public health and economic crisis. At the center of this discussion is our conviction that fiscal space is not set in stone and it is endogenous to the medium-term targets and commitments undertaken by governments and congresses throughout the region. Also, revisions to fiscal responsibility frameworks should help anchor fiscal sustainability, as well as improve their effectiveness and flexibility. In this context, low-for-long interest rates and easy market access is generating a situation that, in spite of higher debt levels, interest cost on public debt will remain contained in the foreseeable future. Especially if, as argued in this paper, a more gradual fiscal consolidation path is accompanied with stronger commitments and institutional frameworks that ensure debt is put on a credible downward trajectory once the pandemic is under control. Catalyzing these changes, as well as initiating the debate to design other fiscal reforms to strengthen social protection and increase the progressivity of public finances, would require a broad social consensus and political cohesion around several crucial dimensions of public finances: a fiscal pact. On the other hand, if this agenda is neglected the continuation of low growth, social discontent, and political polarization could drive Latin America towards a very dangerous path of institutional and economic decay.