For many years, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have spent large amounts on subsidizing fuel and electricity. For both sources of energy combined, this averages around 3-4 percent of GDP. That’s about the same magnitude as public spending on health in many countries. Now we need to ask some important questions. Is this a good use of scarce resources? Where does this money go? Is it helping to support the livelihood of the poorest in African economies? Is it helping to boost the country's competitiveness? The answers are largely, no. I believe this money can and must be used better to invest in the critical physical and social infrastructure required to sustain growth in sub-Saharan Africa. A recent IMF paper backs this up.
By Masood Ahmed
Of all the regions in the world, the Middle East and North Africa region stands out as the one that relies the most on generalized energy subsidies. In energy-rich countries, governments provide subsidies to their populations as a way of sharing the natural resource wealth. In the region’s energy-importing countries, governments use subsidies to offer people some relief from high commodity prices, especially since social safety nets are often weak.
The question is: does this well-intended social protection policy represent the most efficient way to channel aid to the most vulnerable? The answer is no!
Even before the latest euro area GDP numbers and Italian elections cast a shadow over the continent, economists were struggling to reconcile the steady improvement in market sentiment with the more downbeat data on the economy, production, orders, and jobs. This video looks at this puzzle from a somewhat different perspective than the usual— we examine the role of household and corporate balance sheets in the countries under financial market stress and the implications for policy priorities.