When Reality Doesn’t Bite—Misconceptions about the IMF and Social Spending


By Benedict Clements and Sanjeev Gupta

(Versions in عربي, Français)

All too often we hear the claim that the programs the IMF supports in low-income countries hurt the most vulnerable by forcing cuts in social spending. This is a misconception.

Our study concludes that, contrary to these claims, IMF-supported programs boost education and health spending in low-income countries for as long as countries are engaged with the IMF.

Let the numbers do the talking

We based our analysis on public spending on education and health in 140 countries between 1985 and 2009. The dataset is the most comprehensive ever assembled to assess this issue. The results show the beneficial effects for social spending in program countries in several respects. Continue reading

Making up for Lost Time: Getting Back on Track to the Millennium Development Goals


By Hugh Bredenkamp and Catherine Pattillo

Many of the world’s macroeconomists—including here in the IMF—are currently busy reading the daily tea-leaves, attempting to divine whether the sputtering recovery in the advanced economies will hold, and gradually pick up steam, or fall back into the notorious “double dip.”

There is a huge amount at stake here, not only for the millions of unemployed in the developed world, but also for the many hundreds of millions of our fellow global citizens in developing countries who live in dire poverty, without access to proper health, education, or sanitation. The world’s economies are now closely interconnected, and the fate of those in poor countries is tied, increasingly, to that of the richest. Continue reading

This Time Is Different—Fiscal Policy in Low-income Countries


By Carlo Cottarelli

When it comes to the crisis, most of the media attention is focused on advanced and emerging market countries. But low-income countries have been badly hit too, reflecting their growing integration in the world economy. We can see sharp declines in exports, FDI, tourism, and remittances. Output growth in 2009 will be less than half of the pre-crisis rate of over 5 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected, with a contraction of real per capita GDP of almost 1 percent.

This is the bad news. But there is some good news in all of this. Low-income countries have been able to use fiscal policy as a countercyclical tool this time around, far more than in the past. Fiscal deficits are expected to increase in three-quarters of low-income countries in 2009, with an average expansion of 3 percent of GDP. Revenues have grown slower than GDP, reflecting the disproportionate impact of the crisis on trade and commodity revenues, as well as weakening tax compliance. Expenditures are expected to increase by about 2 percentage points of GDP.

Continue reading

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