This paper analyses how financial inclusion in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) compares to peers in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Using individual-level survey data, it shows that the probability of being financially included, as proxied by account ownership in financial institutions, is substantially lower across gender, income groups, and education levels in all CCA countries relative to CEE comparators. Key determinants of this financial inclusion gap are lower financial and human development indices, weak rule of law, and physical access to bank branches or ATMs. This suggests that targeted policies aimed at boosting financial and human development, strengthening the rule of law, and supporting fintech solutions can broaden financial inclusion in the CCA.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
Strong growth continued in 2022 with minimal disruption from the war in Ukraine, while strong financial inflows supported domestic demand and liquidity. Although negative spillovers from the war have not materialized, it remains unclear to what extent Tajikistan will continue to be relatively unaffected by weaker economic activity in Russia.
This paper presents stylized facts on financial development in the CCA countries relative to their EM and LIC peers and assesses how financial development can boost growth in the CCA. Drawing on IMF’s multidimensional index of financial development, we find that CCA countries have made progress following the independence in early 1990s. However, the progress was uneven across the CCA, resulting in a divergence of financial development over time and mixed performance relative to EM and LIC peers. Financial institutions have progressed the most, while financial markets remain underdevelped in most CCA countries except Kazakhstan. In terms of sub-indicators of financial development, financial access has expanded markedly, while the depth of financial intermediation has remained largely shallow and efficiency of financial intermediation has fluctuated over time. Standard growth regressions suggest that CCA countries with relatively lower level of financial development have scope to boost annual growth rates between 0.5-2.5 percent by reaching the level of financial development of frontier CCA countries.
Ms. Genevieve Verdier, Brett Rayner, Ms. Priscilla S Muthoora, Charles Vellutini, Ling Zhu, Vincent de Paul Koukpaizan, Alireza Marahel, Mahmoud Harb, Imen Benmohamed, Mr. Shafik Hebous, Andrew Okello, Nathalie Reyes, Thomas Benninger, and Bernard Sanya
Domestic revenue mobilization has been a longstanding challenge for countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. Insufficient revenue has often constrained priority social and infrastructure spending, reducing countries’ ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, improve growth prospects, and address climate related challenges. Moreover, revenue shortfalls have often been compensated by large and sustained debt accumulation, raising vulnerabilities in some countries, and limiting fiscal space to address future shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have compounded challenges to sustainable public finances, underscoring the need for revenue mobilization efforts. The recent global crises have also exacerbated existing societal inequalities and highlighted the importance of raising revenues in an efficient and equitable manner. This paper examines the scope for additional tax revenue mobilization and discusses policies to gradually raise tax revenue while supporting resilient growth and inclusion in the Middle East and Central Asia. The paper’s main findings are that excluding hydrocarbon revenues, the region’s average tax intake lags those of other regions; the region’s fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS) face particular challenges in mobilizing tax revenue; In general, there is considerable scope to raise additional tax revenue; countries have made efforts to raise tax collection, but challenges remain; tax policy design, notably low tax rates and pervasive tax exemptions, is an important factor driving tax revenue shortfalls; weak tax compliance, reflecting both structural features and challenges in revenue administration, also plays a role; and personal income tax systems in the region vary in their progressivity—the extent to which the average tax rate increases with income—and in their ability to redistribute income. These findings provide insights for policy action to raise revenue while supporting resilient growth and inclusion. The paper’s analysis points to these priorities for the region to improve both efficiency and equity of tax systems: improving tax policy design to broaden the tax base and increase progressivity and redistributive capacity; strengthening revenue administration to improve compliance; and implementing structural reforms to incentivize tax compliance, formalization, and economic diversification.