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.
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, Alaina Rhee, Ms. Anna Shabunina, Jérôme 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.
The paper suggests an operationally usable framework for the evaluation of growth
inclusiveness—the inclusive growth framework (IGF). Based on the data on growth, poverty,
and inequality, the framework allows for the quantitative assessment of growth inclusiveness.
The assessment relies on the decomposition of the change in poverty into growth, distribution,
and decile effects, which can be calculated using the Distributive Analysis Stata Package
(DASP). Availability of at least two household surveys is the main precondition for the use of
the IGF. The application of the IGF is illustrated with two country cases of Senegal and
Emerging Europe has undergone a major economic transformation over the past 25 years. Most countries experienced initial drops in output during transition, followed by recovery in the second half of the 1990s. The path of transition in the Western Balkans has however been particularly uneven. The effects of transition also seem to have been more traumatic and persistent in the Western Balkans, and nostalgia for the past appears to be more prevalent here than in other former communist regions. Such dissatisfaction has important implications for the political economy of further reforms. This paper aims to inform policy by complementing the analysis of standard macro-level measures of inequality and poverty with a household-level analysis of subjective perceptions of poverty. We find that many more people appear to feel poor than are classified as such using purely income-based measures. Uncertainty, in particular related to expectations of future income and vulnerability to shocks, appears to be a key driver behind this discrepancy.
We investigate the factors driving Bolivia’s success in reducing inequality and poverty during the last 15 years. Our evidence suggests that the reduction was driven mainly by labor income growth at the bottom end of the income distribution. Increases in non-labor income (rents, transfers, remittances) also played a role, but a smaller one, although the introduction of Renta Dignidad has made a big difference for the elderly poor. Labor income increases were concentrated in the informal, low-skilled service and manufacturing sectors. As the gains from the commodity boom go into reverse, and the fiscal envelope becomes much tighter, it will be essential that labor and social policies are well designed and targeted to preserve the poverty and inequality reduction of the last 15 years.
This Selected Issues paper reviews the evolution of inequality in Ethiopia and discusses the role of various macroeconomic policies as well as structural factors. With a Gini coefficient of 30, Ethiopia remains among the most egalitarian countries in the world. The most vulnerable households seem to experience less benefit from growth than those in the higher income deciles. In terms of tax revenue collection, Ethiopia faces the typical challenges of a developing country. It is required that Ethiopia builds on its successful experience with the Productive Safety Net Program to address the growing needs of the urban poor.