On the Impact of Better Targeted Transfers on Poverty in Tunisia
This paper describes the effects of general food subsidies on poverty in Tunisia, as revealed by household survey data for 1990. The analysis indicates that the poorest certainly take advantage of this system, but at the price of considerable leakages to non-poor people and at a sizeable economic efficiency loss resulting from relative price distortions. Further, non-parametric estimations suggest that there are no commodities predominantly consumed by the poor. This implies that targeting by commodities is not an effective way to fight against poverty and so, it is unlikely that restructuring the current scheme would improve significantly the living standards of the less well-off members of society. We then investigate the impact on poverty of a more targeted transfer scheme, based on proxy means-tests, using an appropriate econometric technique to model it. Simulations show that this design would be more effective in reducing poverty than the use of general food subsidies. Finally, dominance tests show that this design would first-order-dominate food subsidies scheme within a range of poverty lines including all those estimated and generally used for Tunisia.
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