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Quality of Government and Living Standards; Adjusting for the Efficiency of Public Spending


  • Francesco Grigoli
  • Eduardo Ley


It is generally acknowledged that the government’s output is difficult to define and its value is hard to measure. The practical solution, adopted by national accounts systems, is to equate output to input costs. However, several studies estimate significant inefficiencies in government activities (i.e., same output could be achieved with less inputs), implying that inputs are not a good approximation for outputs. If taken seriously, the next logical step is to purge from GDP the fraction of government inputs that is wasted. As differences in the quality of the public sector have a direct impact on citizens’ effective consumption of public and private goods and services, we must take them into account when computing a measure of living standards. We illustrate such a correction computing corrected per capita GDPs on the basis of two studies that estimate efficiency scores for several dimensions of government activities. We show that the correction could be significant, and rankings of living standards could be re-ordered as a result.

Suggested Citation

  • Francesco Grigoli & Eduardo Ley, 2012. "Quality of Government and Living Standards; Adjusting for the Efficiency of Public Spending," IMF Working Papers 12/182, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:12/182

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nazmul Chaudhury & Jeffrey Hammer & Michael Kremer & Karthik Muralidharan & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 91-116, Winter.
    2. Isabelle Joumard & Christophe André & Chantal Nicq, 2010. "Health Care Systems: Efficiency and Institutions," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 769, OECD Publishing.
    3. Rajkumar, Andrew Sunil & Swaroop, Vinaya, 2008. "Public spending and outcomes: Does governance matter?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 96-111, April.
    4. Victoria Gunnarsson & Stéphane Carcillo & Marijn Verhoeven, 2007. "Education and Health in G7 Countries; Achieving Better Outcomes with Less Spending," IMF Working Papers 07/263, International Monetary Fund.
    5. J. R. Hicks & U. K. Hicks, 1939. "Public Finance in the National Income," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 147-155.
    6. repec:pri:rpdevs:understanding_ppps_complete_with_abstract_14nov08.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
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    8. Dasgupta, Partha, 2001. "Human Well-Being and the Natural Environment," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247882.
    9. Gupta, Sanjeev & Kangur, Alvar & Papageorgiou, Chris & Wane, Abdoul, 2014. "Efficiency-Adjusted Public Capital and Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 164-178.
    10. Chaudhury, Nazmul & Hammer, Jeffrey S., 2003. "Ghost doctors - absenteeism in Bangladeshi health facilities," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3065, The World Bank.
    11. Jean Spinks & Bruce Hollingsworth, 2009. "Cross-country comparisons of technical efficiency of health production: a demonstration of pitfalls," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(4), pages 417-427.
    12. Michael Kremer & Nazmul Chaudhury & F. Halsey Rogers & Karthik Muralidharan & Jeffrey Hammer, 2005. "Teacher Absence in India: A Snapshot," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 658-667, 04/05.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco Grigoli Author-Email: Author-Name: Eduardo Ley Author-Email:, 2012. "Quality of Government and Living Standards," World Bank - Economic Premise, The World Bank, issue 89, pages 1-6, September.
    2. Musharraf Rasool Cyan & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Violeta Vulovic, 2014. "New approaches to measuring tax effort," Chapters,in: Taxation and Development: The Weakest Link?, chapter 2, pages 27-68 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Francesco Grigoli, 2015. "A Hybrid Approach to Estimating the Efficiency of Public Spending on Education in Emerging and Developing Economies," Applied Economics and Finance, Redfame publishing, vol. 2(1), pages 19-32, February.


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