International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
Countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) region and those in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with swift and stringent measures to mitigate its spread and impact but continue to face an uncertain and difficult environment. Oil exporters were particularly hard hit by a “double-whammy” of the economic impact of lockdowns and the resulting sharp decline in oil demand and prices. Containing the health crisis, cushioning income losses, and expanding social spending remain immediate priorities. However, governments must also begin to lay the groundwork for recovery and rebuilding stronger, including by addressing legacies from the crisis and strengthening inclusion.
At the global level, inequality has declined substantially over the past three decades, but within national boundaries, the picture is mixed: some countries have experienced a reduction in inequality while others, particularly advanced economies, have seen a significant increase that has, among other things, contributed to growing public backlash against globalization. Excessive levels of inequality can erode social cohesion, lead to political polarization, and ultimately lower economic growth, but whether inequality is excessive depends on country-specific factors, including the growth context in which inequality arises, along with societal preferences. This Fiscal Monitor focuses on how fiscal policy can help governments address high levels of inequality while minimizing potential trade-offs between efficiency and equity. It documents recent trends in income inequality, including inequality both between and within countries, then examines the redistributive role of fiscal policies over recent decades and underscores the importance of appropriate design to minimize any efficiency costs. It then focuses on some key components of fiscal redistribution: progressivity of income taxation, universal basic income, and public spending policies for achieving more equitable education and health outcomes. The analysis relies on the existing theoretical and empirical literature, IMF work on inequality and fiscal policy, country experiences, and new analytical work, including various static microsimulation analyses based on household survey data. Simulations using a dynamic general equilibrium model calibrated to country-specific data and behavioral parameters illustrate the potential impact of alternative budget-neutral tax and transfer measures on income inequality and economic growth.
This publication is a survey by the IMF staff, published twice a year, in the spring and fall, as part of the IMF’s World Economic and Financial Surveys. The current issue analyzes the latest public finance developments, updates medium-term fiscal projections, and assesses policies aimed at placing public finances on a sustainable footing. An analytical chapter employs extensive firm-level data sets as well as new sources of data on tax policy and tax administration for advanced economies, emerging market economies, and low-income developing countries to assess the extent of resource misallocation within countries, focusing on how the design of the tax system may affect resource allocation.
Drawing on an expanded data set covering emerging markets and low-income countries as well as advanced economies, this issue examines the extent and makeup of global debt and asks what role fiscal policy can play in facilitating the adjustment. The analytical framework explicitly models the interlinkages between private and public debt in analyzing the role of fiscal policy in the deleveraging process. Country case studies provide useful insights on what fiscal policy should and should not do to facilitate deleveraging while minimizing the drag on the economy.
The global economy remains fragile at this time. While the recovery in advanced economies is softening, many emerging market and developing economies have experienced a significant economic slowdown, and some large countries show signs of distress. Global risk aversion has risen, and commodity prices have continued to fall since the April 2015 Fiscal Monitor. The weaker outlook and concerns about the ability of policymakers to provide an adequate and swift policy response have amplified downward risks and clouded global prospects. According to this issue of the Fiscal Monitor, the challenging environment calls for a comprehensive policy response to boost growth and reduce vulnerabilities. In particular, it is critical to identify policies that could lift productivity growth by promoting innovation. Fiscal policy can play an important role in stimulating innovation through its effects on research and development, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer.
This issue of the Fiscal Monitor examines the conduct of fiscal policy under the uncertainty caused by dependence on natural resource revenues. It draws on extensive past research on the behavior of commodity prices and their implications for macroeconomic outcomes, as well as on extensive IMF technical assistance to resource-rich economies seeking to improve their management of natural resource wealth.
Fiscal risks remain significant in both advanced and emerging market and developing economies. Fiscal policy continues to play an essential role in building confidence and, where appropriate, sustaining aggregate demand. According to this issue of the Fiscal Monitor, strengthening fiscal frameworks—particularly to manage public finance risks and ensure debt sustainability—must be part of the fiscal policy response. Countries should seize the moment created by lower oil prices to start the process of energy taxation and energy subsidy reform. Finally, fiscal policy can contribute substantially to macroeconomic stability, through the workings of automatic stabilizers. By doing so, fiscal policy can also unlock significant growth dividends.
At a time when job creation tops the policy agenda globally, this issue of the Fiscal Monitor explores if and how fiscal policy can do more for jobs. It finds that while fiscal policy cannot substitute for comprehensive reforms, it can support job creation in a number of ways. First, deficit reduction can be designed and timed to minimize negative effects on employment. Second, fiscal policy can facilitate structural reforms in the labor market by offsetting their potential short term costs. And third, targeted fiscal measures, including labor tax cuts, can help tackle challenges in specific segments of the labor market, such as youth and older workers.
This paper investigates the impact of long-run terms-of-trade shocks. Analytically, we show that, if capital goods are largely importable or the labor supply is sufficiently elastic, then natural-resource booms increase aggregate investment and worsen the current account, but Dutch ‘Disease’ effects are weak. We then examine 18 oil-exporting developing countries during 1965-89. Favorable terms-of-trade shocks increase investment and (especially government) consumption, but reduce medium-term savings; hence, the current account deteriorates. Nontradable output increases, in response to real appreciations, but Dutch Disease effects are strikingly absent. Investment, consumption, and nontradable output respond more to a terms-of-trade decline than to an increase.