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  • Author: Guillermo Calvo
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: The last presidential elections in Argentina (2015) and in Brazil (2018), represent a change from populism towards more orthodox economic policies in two important countries in the region. This shift is not only economic but also reflects other fundamental changes in the electorate, in particular the growing dissatisfaction of the population with issues such as weak security and growing corruption in political institutions. In both countries, there are significant fiscal problems and adjustment is needed. But in modern democracies, the success or failure of economic policy is closely tied to political developments. Notably, both countries face their macroeconomic challenges under a parliamentary minority; a situation that is common to many countries in the region at present. Economies highly integrated into the international capital markets, with macroeconomic imbalances inherited from populist governments, face a particularly difficult challenge. On the one hand, the required fiscal tightening entails the execution of policies that may result in greater social unrest, thus encouraging a gradual approach. On the other hand, a gradual approach requires a greater funding stream of financial funds thus exposing the economy to higher financial risk. The dilemma of choosing between a shock adjustment and a gradual approach has been central to understanding what has happened in Argentina and is essential to assessing the options available to the next government in Brazil. The dilemma about the optimal speed of fiscal adjustment has been faced by other countries in the region in the past. In some successful cases of gradualism, the presence of a clear commitment mechanism over the fiscal path, including the implementation of goals agreed with the IMF, has played a decisive role in mitigating the credibility gap typically linked to gradual approaches. One question that the Committee puts forward throughout this statement is to what extent does Argentina's experience entail relevant lessons for Brazil? In order to thoroughly understand these possible lessons and the challenges that both countries face, it is important to consider the similarities and differences between Argentina and Brazil. There is no doubt that both countries are dealing with formidable fiscal challenges. In both countries, there is a primary fiscal deficit and public debt levels are high in relation to GDP. Also, both economies face low or negative growth rates, partly because of cyclical or temporary factors and partly because of low productivity levels due to complex regulatory regimes and tax systems that hinder investment. On the other hand, the realities of Argentina and Brazil are very different in some important aspects. Brazil has not had to cope with a currency crisis and external financing problems such as those of Argentina; the latter has had to reduce its hefty deficit in the current account of the balance of payments. In contrast, Brazil’s external public debt and external financing needs of the public sector are low. However, while the private sector’s foreign indebtedness is quite moderate in Argentina, it is relatively high in the case of Brazil. As regards to monetary policy and inflation, the situation in both countries is also very different. Whereas the inflation rate in Argentina has suffered a substantial increase throughout this year in the context of low credibility in its monetary policy, Brazil has kept a low and stable inflation rate and has significantly improved its central bank’s credibility. These similarities and differences require a differentiated discussion of each country, even if some challenges facing Argentina and Brazil are shared, and whether their experiences provide lessons for each other. The international context plays a fundamental role for both economies in determining the results of economic policy. Before embarking on a more detailed analysis of the challenges facing Argentina and Brazil during the next year, we will analyze how the international context has recently changed, in the next section.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, Populism, Local
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Argentina, South America
  • Author: Pedro L. Rodríguez, José R. Morales, Francisco J. Monaldi
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Venezuela is a textbook example of a resource-dependent country—between 1950 and 2008, oil generated over a trillion dollars of income for the state. Nevertheless, Venezuela currently combines an economy that is stagnant, despite high oil prices, with an increasingly authoritarian government. The authors argue that large oil rents that accrue to the state, together with a lack of formal and transparent mechanisms to facilitate citizen oversight, are a large part of the problem. They consider the nature of the fiscal contract between the Venezuelan government and its people. This has been characterized by increasing discretion of the executive; only a small share of the rents is now subject to political oversight within the framework of the budgetary system. The authors consider the case for direct distribution of rents, distinguishing it from a populist approach to transfers as effected through Venezuela's misiones. They also report on focus group discussions of the directdistribution approach and the political viability of direct transfers.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Economics, Energy Policy, Government, Oil, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Argentina, Latin America
  • Author: Nora Lustig, Luis F. Lopez-Calva, Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Between 2000 and 2010, the Gini coefficient declined in 13 of 17 Latin American countries. The decline was statistically significant and robust to changes in the time interval, inequality measures, and data sources. In-depth country studies for Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico suggest two main phenomena underlie this trend: a fall in the premium to skilled labor and more progressive government transfers. The fall in the premium to skills resulted from a combination of supply, demand, and institutional factors. Their relative importance depends on the country.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Emerging Markets, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Poverty, Social Stratification
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Argentina, Latin America, Mexico
  • Author: Nora Lustig
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: We apply a standard tax-and-benefit-incidence analysis to estimate the impact on inequality and poverty of direct taxes, indirect taxes and subsidies, and social spending (cash and food transfers and in-kind transfers in education and health). The extent of inequality reduction induced by direct taxes and transfers is rather small (2 percentage points on average), especially when compared with that found in Western Europe (15 percentage points on average). What prevents Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil from achieving similar reductions in inequality is not the lack of revenues but the fact that they spend less on cash transfers—especially transfers that are progressive in absolute terms—as a share of GDP. Indirect taxes result in that net contributors to the fiscal system start at the fourth, third, and even second decile on average, depending on the country. When in-kind transfers in education and health are added, however, the bottom six deciles are net recipients. The impact of transfers on inequality and poverty reduction could be higher if spending on direct cash transfers that are progressive in absolute terms were increased, leakages to the nonpoor reduced, and coverage of the extreme poor by direct transfer programs expanded.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Education, Health, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Argentina, Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia