Protecting Education and Health Spending in Low-Income Countries

By Christine Lagarde

June 6, 2017

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French) 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Senior class in Nairobi, Kenya. In many countries with IMF-supported programs public spending on education grew significantly faster than the economy of the country (photo: Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom)

IMF-supported programs are designed to help economies get back on their feet, but what about their impact on social spending?

Our latest research shows that health and education spending have typically been protected in low-income country programs. In fact, an analysis of more than 25 years of data (1988–2014) suggests that public health spending, as a share of GDP, has on average remained unchanged, while public education spending has increased by 0.32 percentage points.

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Restarting the Growth Engine in Sub-Saharan Africa

By IMFBlog

May 19, 2017

Version in Français (French)

The IMF’s latest economic health check of sub-Saharan Africa shows that growth fell to its lowest level in 20 years.

In this podcast, the IMF African Department’s Celine Allard, who oversaw the report, says that this drop brought a halt to the 5 to 6 percent growth rate that was enjoyed in the last two decades. Some factors contributing to this slowdown are lower commodity prices, the devastation of a severe drought—exacerbating crop infestation and leading to a famine affecting some 20 million people—and political conflicts that affect trade.

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Chart of the Week: Budget-friendly, Equitable Growth in France

By IMFBlog

May 15, 2017

Version in Français (French)

One need look no further than the national motto—liberté, égalité, fraternité—to understand that equality is an especially important concept in France. French policies play an important role in combating inequality. This is primarily achieved through a combination of minimum wage policies and an extensive tax and transfer system.

But these traditional equality-enhancing policies may have reached their limits as unemployment has become entrenched and budgets have been severely stretched. So, what are the best policies for a country weighing how to boost growth, lessen inequality, and minimize costs? It is not a zero sum game.

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Roads to Stronger Growth in Low-Income Countries

By Tao Zhang and Vladimir Klyuev

Versions in:  عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), and Español (Spanish)

Low-income countries should build more infrastructure to strengthen growth. A new IMF analysis looks at ways to overcome obstacles.

The clock is now ticking on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and while investment—critical to this agenda—has been rising in recent years among low-income countries, weak infrastructure is still hampering growth. Governments need to make significant improvements to lay foundations for flourishing economies: roads to connect people to markets, electricity to keep factories running, sanitation to stave off disease, and pipelines to deliver safe water. (more…)

Small States Confront Big Challenges with Natural Disasters and Climate Change

taozhangBy Tao Zhang

Versions in 中文 (Chinese), and Français (French)

Small states are far more vulnerable than other countries to natural disasters and climate change. On average, the annual cost of disasters for small states (economies with a population of less than 1.5 million) is more than four times that for larger countries, in relation to GDP. These countries—whether landlocked nations or small island states—need a range of approaches to deal with catastrophe, including not only better disaster response but also more focus on risk reduction and preparedness. (more…)

China Must Quickly Tackle its Corporate Debt Problems

By Joong Shik Kang and Wojciech S. Maliszewski

Version in 中文 (Chinese)

China urgently needs to tackle its corporate-debt problem before it becomes a major drag on growth in the world’s No. 2 economy. Corporate debt has reached very high levels and continues to grow. In our recent paper, we recommend that the government act promptly to adopt a comprehensive program that would sacrifice some economic growth in the short term while rapidly returning the economy to a sustainable growth path.

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Fixing the Great Distortion: How to Undo the Tax Bias Toward Debt Finance

By Ruud de Mooij, Michael Keen, and Alexander Tieman

“The Great Distortion.” That’s what The Economist, in its cover story of May 2015¸ called the systematic tax advantage of debt over equity that is found in almost every tax system.

This “debt bias” is now widely recognized as a real risk to economic stability. A new IMF study argues that it needs to feature more prominently on tax reform agendas; it also sets out options for how to do that.

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Big Bad Actors: A Global View of Debt

By Vitor Gaspar and Marialuz Moreno Badia

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

In the midst of the Great Depression, the American economist Irving Fisher warned of the dangers of excessive debt and the deflationary pressures that follow on its tail. He saw debt and deflation as the big, bad actors. Now, their close relatives—too high debt and too low inflation—are still in play, at least for advanced economies.

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Sluggish Business Investment in the Euro Area: The Roles of Small and Medium Enterprises and Debt

By John C. Bluedorn and Christian Ebeke

Small businesses could be the lifeblood of Europe’s economy, but their size and high debt are two of the factors holding back the investment recovery in the euro area. The solution partly lies in policies to help firms grow and reduce debt.

Our new study, part of the IMF’s annual economic health check of the euro area, takes a novel bottom-up look at the problem. We analyze the drivers of investment using a large dataset of over six million observations in eight euro area countries, from 2003 to 2013: Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Finland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. (more…)

The Change in Demand for Debt: The New Landscape in Low-income Countries

By Andrea F. Presbitero and Min Zhu

(Versions in 中文 (Chinese), Français, and Português)

Many low-income developing countries have joined the group of Eurobond issuers across the globe— in sub-Saharan Africa (for example, Senegal, Zambia, and Ghana), Asia (for example, Mongolia) and elsewhere, raising over US$21 billion cumulatively over the past decade. Tapping these markets provides a new source of funds, but also exposes borrowers to shifts in investor sentiment and rising global interest rates.

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