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Mr. Alex Mourmouras and Mr. Peter Rangazas

Fractious domestic politics are at the root of continued poverty in some developing countries and pose a dilemma for donors and international financial institutions. This paper examines the effects of foreign assistance in countries with plentiful investment opportunities when interest groups compete for unproductive government transfers. We assess conditional and unconditional assistance (project and program aid, loans, and grants). We find that project conditionality alone may fail to spur growth. Official development loans channeled to investment may not increase the recipient’s growth and welfare even if interest groups are unable to appropriate aid funds directly. Conditions must tackle the domestic drivers of inefficient fiscal policies. To improve the composition of government expenditure, increase growth, and improve welfare, tax rates must be kept constant and loan repayment be financed by cuts in unproductive transfers. Official development grants are superior to loans of the same net present value if donors cannot enforce conditions on assistance.

Mr. Jack Diamond

For the latest thinking about the international financial system, monetary policy, economic development, poverty reduction, and other critical issues, subscribe to Finance & Development (F&D). This lively quarterly magazine brings you in-depth analyses of these and other subjects by the IMF’s own staff as well as by prominent international experts. Articles are written for lay readers who want to enrich their understanding of the workings of the global economy and the policies and activities of the IMF.

Mr. Paul Cashin

This paper develops an endogenous growth model of the influence of public investment, public transfers, and distortionary taxation on the rate of economic growth. The growth–enhancing effects of investment in public capital and transfer payments are modeled, as is the growth–inhibiting influence of the levying of distortionary taxes that are used to fund such expenditure. The theoretical implications of the model are then tested with data from 23 developed countries between 1971 and 1988, and time series cross sectional results are obtained that support the proposed influence of the public finance variables on economic growth.

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

In recent years, Hong Kong SAR’s J. economy has been buffeted by an acute regional crisis, a stubborn global slowdown, and a frightening new virus. But with traditional resilience and a helping hand from the mainland, Hong Kong SAR now seems poised to record strong growth and accelerate the changes needed to align its economy more closely with that of mainland China. Eswar Prasad, editor of a new IMF Occasional Paper on the challenges facing the territory, speaks with Sheila Meehan about the authors’ findings and recommendations.

Mr. Malcolm D. Knight, Norman Loayza, and Delano Villanueva

Although conventional wisdom suggests that reducing military spending may improve a country’s economic growth performance, empirical studies have produced ambiguous results. This paper extends a standard growth model and obtains consistent panel data estimates of the growth retarding effects of military spending via its adverse impact on capital formation and resource allocation. Simulation experiments suggest that a substantial long-run “peace dividend”—in the form of higher capacity output—may result from markedly lower military expenditure levels achieved in most regions during the late 1980s, and the further military spending cuts that would be possible if global peace could be secured.

Mr. Emanuele Baldacci, Mr. Benedict J. Clements, Qiang Cui, and Mr. Sanjeev Gupta

The paper highlights that over the past century, access to education has increased enormously, illiteracy has fallen dramatically, and a higher proportion of people are completing primary, secondary, or tertiary education than ever before. But huge problems remain. About 115 million children of primary school age are not currently enrolled in school. Most are illiterate and live in absolute poverty—the majority female. Some 264 million children of secondary school age are not currently enrolled, and the quality of schooling is often low.