Developing and low-income economies face the challenge of increasing public spending to
address sizeable infrastructure and social gaps while simultaneously restoring the fiscal
discipline weakened to countervail the effect of the global recession. Increasing the efficiency
of social spending could be the key policy to address the dilemma as it allows the optimization
of the existing resources by reducing spending inefficiencies. This paper quantifies the efficiency
gap in the health and education sectors for a large sample of developing and emerging
countries and proposes measures to reduce these gaps for the specific cases of El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Honduras.
This paper reviews public expenditure in Lithuania to identify areas where deeper structural
reforms may be warranted to improve spending efficiency and contain future spending
pressures. The analysis benchmarks spending in Lithuania against other European countries
focusing on spending levels, spending composition, and spending outcomes, and for both
economic and functional spending classifications. While recent expenditure consolidation efforts
have kept public spending among the lowest in Europe, a transition from broad-based measures
to more structural measures will be required: to ensure that low spending levels remain
sustainable, to address poor social outcomes such as high inequality and poor health and
education outcomes, and to efficiently and equitably contain spending pressures arising from an
This paper analyzes drivers of rising per-pupil public education spending, including Baumol’s “cost disease” effect. Higher wages paid to teachers contributed significantly to the increase in per-pupil spending over the past decades. Empirical analyses using a large dataset of advanced and developing economies show that the contribution of Baumol’s effect was much smaller than impled by theory. Rather, the spending inccrease reflects rising wage premiums paid for teachers in excess of market wages, especially in middle-income countries. The strong wage premium effect suggests that institutional characteristics that govern teachers’ wage setting are key determinants of education expenditure.
Hui Jin, La-Bhus Fah Jirasavetakul, and Baoping Shang
This paper, using Moldova as an example, presents a systematic approach to assess the efficiency and equity of public education spending, identify sources of inefficiencies and inequality, and formulate potential reform options. The analytical framework combines international benchmarking with country-specific analysis—such as microeconomic analysis based on household survey data—and can provide important insights into diagnosing and reforming education systems. The analysis finds significant scope to improve both efficiency and equity of the education sector in Moldova. Potential reform measures include further consolidating the oversized school network, reducing overstaffing, and better targeting government subsidies. The current remuneration policy could also be improved to attract high quality teachers and incentivize performance.
While South Africa has made significant improvements in basic and tertiary education enrollment, the country still suffers from significant challenges in the quality of educational achievement by almost any international metric. The paper finds that money is clearly not the main issue since the South Africa’s education budget is comparable to OECD countries as a percent of GDP and exceeds that of most peer sub-Saharan African countries in per capita terms. The main explanatory factors are complex and multifaceted, and are associated with insufficient subject knowledge of some teachers, history, race, language, geographic location, and socio-economic status. Low educational achievement contributes to low productivity growth, and high levels of poverty, unemployment, and inequality. Drawing on the literature, the paper sketches some policy considerations to guide the debate on what works and what does not.
Mr. Carlos Mulas-Granados, Richard Varghese, Vizhdan Boranova, Alice deChalendar, and Judith Wallenstein
We exploit a survey data set that contains information on how 11,000 workers across advanced and emerging market economies perceive the main forces shaping the future of work. In general, workers feel more positive than negative about automation, especially in emerging markets. We find that negative perceptions about automation are prevalent among workers who are older, poorer, more exposed to job volatility, and from countries with higher levels of robot penetration. Perceptions over automation are positively viewed by workers with higher levels of job satisfaction, higher educational attainment, and from countries with stronger labor protection. Workers with positive perceptions of automation also tend to respond that re-education and retraining will be needed to adapt to rapidly evolving skill demands. These workers expect governments to have a role in shaping the future of work through protection of labor and new forms of social benefits. The demand for protection and benefits is more significant among women and workers that have suffered job volatility.
Deon Filmer, Roberta Gatti, Halsey Rogers, Mr. Nikola Spatafora, and Drilona Emrullahu
We discuss existing shortfalls and inequalities in the accumulation of human capital—knowledge, skills, and health. We analyze their immediate and systemic causes, and assess the scope for public intervention. The broad policy goals should be to improve: the quality, and not just the quantity, of education and health care; outcomes for disadvantaged groups; and lifelong outcomes. The means to achieve these goals, while maximizing value for money, include: focusing on results rather than just inputs; moving from piecemeal interventions to systemic reform; and adopting a “whole-of-society” approach. Reforms must be underpinned by a robust evidence base.
Asia Rising -- explores Asia's role in the world economy, the challenges faced from globalization, the quest for greater regional financial integration, the problem of lagging investment, and why East Asia performed so much better than Latin America. It also looks at the recovery of Japan and the rise of India and China. The economies of the ASEAN-4 come under the microscope in Country Focus. Other articles examine financial sector reform in Africa and the remaining hurdles to financial integration in the European Union. People in Economics profiles Paul Krugman, Back to Basics focuses on hedge funds, and the Straight Talk column looks at the problem of underdevelopment.