Let’s take a fresh look at “anticipatory cash transfers”: Gros et al present quasi-experimental results of an unconditional payment to people about to experience severe floods in Bangladesh. After an early action protocol was triggered on June 25, 2020, a transfer of $53 was provided to about 3,800 households 24-48 hours before the start of the first flood peak on June 30. The evaluation is based on a smaller sample, and posing somewhat different employment-related questions, than an earlier paper by Pople et al. Relative to the latter study, it confirmed most results, but it differed on others: Gros et al found that the anticipatory intervention helped households evacuate the flood-affected area (27% versus 11% of non-beneficiaries), mitigated the impacts on health and wellbeing, protected assets (21 percentage points fewer assets), and minimized negative coping strategies. Food-based coping mechanisms, however, weren’t reduced, not did anticipatory cash affect earning potential in the immediate aftermath of the flood.
More on resilience! Using the Resilience Index Model Analysis, Woldemichael et al documented that in Ethiopia’s SNNPR region PSNP beneficiaries display lower food expenditures and resilience levels compared to non-PSNP participants. Have a bit of a dilemma on how to interpret these interesting results… e.g., they could signal reaching the most vulnerable, but also that design could be improved (especially on adequacy). Bonus on Ethiopia: an upcoming study by Dad et al on an electronic food voucher program in the Ahmara region detected almost half of beneficiaries purchased vegetables, and that transfers met a little over one-third of a “monthly nutritious diet”.
From Africa to MENA: what’s the net effect of fiscal systems in Iraq? Using the $5.5/day international poverty line, Amjad et al show that Iraq’s fiscal system reduces poverty by 5 percentage points – that propels Iraq as the fourth most effective country among the 57 nations evaluated (figure 5, p.24). The Iraqi system is moderately progressive, with households in the poorest quintile receiving about 30% of direct transfers (i.e., PDS, cash transfers, and pensions) compared to those in the other quintiles (claiming between 14-20% of transfers) (see figure 7, p.26). Indirect subsidies, on the other hand, tend to benefit richer households significantly, while both direct and indirect taxes are concentrated among highest income quintiles. See also the programs breakdown on inequality (figure 11, p.30) and in terms of progressivity (figure 14, p.33)!
BTW, Aman-Rana et al explore the sensitive issue of “informal fiscal systems” in Pakistan: basically, the arrangement is one whereby taxation and expenditures are managed within the state apparatus but outside its formal fiscal processes. Under such framework, local officials are expected to personally fund part of public services, with evidence indicating they rely, at least partially, on bribes extracted from local communities.
Back to poverty… remember the Chronic Poverty Report? The 2023 edition is now out, including with a focus on the pandemic. I always relished this report since the early 2000s, and with all the numbers that we normally use for similar publications, it was refreshing to see a personal story on poverty mobility from Cambodia plotted on a graph (see figure 4, p.7). Bonus: Sugiharti et al estimate that between 2007 and 2014, chronic poverty accounted for at least two-thirds of total poverty in Indonesia (see table 1 for a handy cross-country compilation of poverty composition).
More from East Asia: how can research influence policy, and how can regional research specifically do so? An article by Galpaya et al reflects on how LIRNEasia, an Asian thinktank, influenced policy during Sri Lanka’s pandemic and economic crisis in 2022. For instance, “… [a]n analysis showed that support for poor people in the form of cash transfers was one of the few areas that parties and organisations across the political spectrum could agree on (…) As such, the research broadened to situate cash payments in the context of the new austerity measures and the inflation seen in the country” (p.82).
News on social insurance? A paper by Laun and Palme explores the incentives effects of Sweden’s 1998 reform of public old-age pension. Specifically, the country replaced the old defined benefit program with a plan consisting of a pay-as-you-go notional defined contribution scheme and a fully funded scheme, where people can choose between many privately managed funds. Results indicate that, under some assumptions, the reform yielded a slight increase in labor force participation. Bonus: Netherlands tops the Mercer Global Pension Index 2023, with Argentina ranking last (h/t Pip O’Keefe).
And to conclude… the rich 2nd edition of Palgrave’s International Handbook of Basic Income, edited by Torry, is available open access; an intriguing paper by Fracassi et al looks at child wasting in Africa through a food systems lens; and a seminar on the interoperability of Senegal’s Registre National Unique is coming up on November 7.