Mr. Ravi Balakrishnan, Sandra Lizarazo, Marika Santoro, Mr. Frederik G Toscani, and Mr. Mauricio Vargas
Over the past decades, inequality has risen not just in advanced economies but also in many emerging market and developing economies, becoming one of the key global policy challenges. And throughout the 20th century, Latin America was associated with some of the world’s highest levels of inequality. Yet something interesting happened in the first decade and a half of the 21st century. Latin America was the only region in the World to have experienced significant declines in inequality in that period. Poverty also fell in Latin America, although this was replicated in other regions, and Latin America started from a relatively low base. Starting around 2014, however, and even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, poverty and inequality gains had already slowed in Latin America and, in some cases, gone into reverse. And the COVID-19 shock, which is still playing out, is likely to dramatically worsen short-term poverty and inequality dynamics. Against this background, this departmental paper investigates the link between commodity prices, and poverty and inequality developments in Latin America.
Ms. Valerie Cerra, Mr. Ruy Lama, and Norman Loayza
Is there a tradeoff between raising growth and reducing inequality and poverty? This paper reviews the theoretical and empirical literature on the complex links between growth, inequality, and poverty, with causation going in both directions. The evidence suggests that growth can be effective in reducing poverty, but its impact on inequality is ambiguous and depends on the underlying sources of growth. The impact of poverty and inequality on growth is likewise ambiguous, as several channels mediate the relationship. But most plausible mechanisms suggest that poverty and inequality reduce growth, at least in the long run. Policies play a role in shaping these relationships and those designed to improve equality of opportunity can simultaneously improve inclusiveness and growth.
There is a growing debate on the relative merits of universal and targeted social assistance transfers in achieving income redistribution objectives. While the benefits of targeting are clear, i.e., a larger poverty impact for a given transfer budget or lower fiscal cost for a given poverty impact, in practice targeting also comes with various costs, including incentive, administrative, social and political costs. The appropriate balance between targeted and universal transfers will therefore depend on how countries decide to trade-off these costs and benefits as well as on the potential for redistribution through taxes. This paper discusses the trade-offs that arise in different country contexts and the potential for strengthening fiscal redistribution in advanced and developing countries, including through expanding transfer coverage and progressive tax financing.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes impact of debt on growth in South Africa. A permanent increase of four percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) in national government expenditure underlies the doubling of public debt in the last decade. The wage bill accounted for most of the expenditure increase (64 percent), followed by the interest bill (23 percent). The debt expansion, thus, financed a countercyclical fiscal policy centered on current spending, which likely shielded the impact of subdued economic activity, but had limited permanent effects on growth. Had resources devoted to wage increases and debt service payments been invested in more productive outlays, such as highly productive capital expenditure and reforms in key network industries, the growth gains would have been higher. The spending increase that drove the large debt accumulation helped smooth the impact of the global financial crisis, but likely did not have a material impact on growth.
Tingyun Chen, Mr. Jean-Jacques Hallaert, Mr. Alexander Pitt, Mr. Haonan Qu, Mr. Maximilien Queyranne, Ms. Alaina P Rhee, Ms. Anna Shabunina, Mr. Jerome Vandenbussche, and Irene Yackovlev
This SDN studies the evolution of inequality across age groups leading up to and since the global financial crisis, as well as implications for fiscal and labor policies. Europe’s population is aging, child and youth poverty are rising, and income support systems are often better equipped to address old-age poverty than the challenges faced by poor children and/or unemployed youth today.
This Economic Development Document describes the strategy adopted by the government of Madagascar to reverse the trend of modest economic performance, deteriorating social conditions, and persistent poverty observed in recent years. This strategy addresses the underlying causes of poverty. The primary aim of the fiscal policy is to increase revenue and rationalize budget expenditure to provide ample margins to finance priority spending, specifically social and infrastructure spending. The priorities are to expand the tax base and continuing reform of tax and customs administration, and to eliminate the causes of inefficient public expenditure. The monetary policy is given the role of regulating domestic liquidity to normalize trends in economic activities and achieve the inflation targets of less than 10.0 percent.