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.
Following the adoption by the international community of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) approach, which provides the basis for concessional lending by the multilateral institutions, there has been a resurgence of interest in the poverty and social impact analysis (PSIA) of different policy reforms being considered by the low income countries. This paper reviews some of the major techniques and frameworks for assessing the PSIA. It highlights their strengths and weaknesses and suggests a relatively simple analytical framework for the PSIA based on household survey data. The paper then shows how the suggested framework could be utilized to investigate the poverty/income distributional implications of introducing a value-added tax (VAT). The results indicate that a revenue-neutral uniform VAT is regressive in its impact on different households. In order to mitigate the adverse impact, the paper explores the distributional impact of an alternative policy package consisting of a basic rate of VAT with exemptions and excise taxes for certain commodity groups chosen on the basis of their distributional characteristics. The distributional consequences of the alternative package are found to be superior to those of the uniform VAT.