A Big Step Forward for Bolstering Financial Inclusion

By David Marston, Era Dabla-Norris, and D. Filiz Unsal

(version in Español)

Economists are paying increasing attention to the link between financial inclusion—greater availability of and access to financial services—and economic development. In a new paper, we take a closer look at exactly how financial inclusion impacts a country’s economy and what policies are most effective in promoting it.

The new framework developed in this paper allows us to identify barriers to financial inclusion and see how lifting these barriers might affect a country’s output and level of inequality.  Because the more you know about what stands in the way of financial inclusion, the better you can be at designing policies that help foster it.

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Policy Interest Rates in Latin America: Moving to Neutral?

Using our estimated neutral interest rates we find that current policy rates are close to their neutral level in several countries (Chile, Colombia, and Peru). For Brazil and Mexico we find that monetary policies remain stimulative (with actual interest rates below neutral). For other countries in the region our analysis suggests that Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Uruguay have lower interest rates than their neutral level. However, these results should be viewed with caution given data limitations and weaker monetary policy transmissions.

Regional Spillovers in South America: How “Systemic” is Brazil?

We quantify the spillovers from Brazil to other countries in South America. The results confirm that Brazil has a significant influence on Southern Cone countries, particularly on Mercosur partners (Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay), but not on the Andean economies. For the Southern Cone countries, spillovers from Brazil can take two forms: the transmission of shocks originating in Brazil and the amplification (through Brazil) of global shocks. These two factors explain an important share of the fluctuations in economy activity in the Southern Cone countries.

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