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How does the composition of public spending matter?


  • Paternostro, Stefano
  • Rajaram, Anand
  • Tiongson, Erwin R.


Public spending has effects which are complex to trace and difficult to quantify. But the composition of public expenditure has become the key instrument by which development agencies seek to promote economic development. In recent years, the development assistance to heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) hasbeen made conditional on increased expenditure on categories that are thought to be"pro-poor". This paper responds to the growing concern being expressed about the conceptual foundations and the empirical basis for the belief that poverty can be reduced through targeted public spending. While it is widely accepted that growth and redistribution are important sources of reduction in absolute poverty, a review of the literature confirms the lack of an appropriate theoretical framework for assessing the impact of public spending on growth as well as poverty. There is a need to combine principles of both public economics and growth theory to develop appropriate theoretical guidance for public expenditure policy. This paper identifies a number of approaches that are beginning to address this gap. Building on these approaches, it proposes a framework that has its foundation in a broadly articulated development strategy and its economic goals such as growth, equity, and poverty reduction. It recommends the use of public economics principles to clarify the roles of the private and public sectors and to recognize the complementarity of spending, taxation, and regulatory instruments available to affect public policy. With regard to the impact of any given type of public spending, policy recommendations must be tailored to countries and be based on empirical analysis that takes account of the lags and leads in their effects on equity and growth and ultimately on poverty. The paper sketches out such a framework as the first step in what will have to be a longer-term research agenda to provide theoretically and empirically robust and verifiable guidance to public spending policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Paternostro, Stefano & Rajaram, Anand & Tiongson, Erwin R., 2005. "How does the composition of public spending matter?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3555, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3555

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jorge Martínez-Vázquez & Violeta Vulovic & Blanca Moreno Dodson, 2012. "The Impact of Tax and Expenditure Policies on Income Distribution: Evidence from a Large Panel of Countries," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 200(1), pages 95-130, March.
    2. Branka Andjelkovic & Alexander Chubrik & Marek Dabrowski & Roman Mogilevsky & Irina Sinitsina & Przemyslaw Wozniak, 2010. "Challenges and Trajectories of Fiscal Policy and PFM Reform in CEE/CIS," CASE Network Reports 0092, CASE-Center for Social and Economic Research.
    3. repec:eee:wdevel:v:103:y:2018:i:c:p:60-71 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. N R Bhanumurthy & Manish Prasad & Richa Jain, 2016. "Public Expenditure, Governance and Human Development: A Case of Madhya Pradesh," Working Papers id:11209, eSocialSciences.
    5. Tewodaj Mogues, 2011. "The Bang for the Birr: Public Expenditures and Rural Welfare in Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(5), pages 735-752.
    6. Mogues, Tewodaj & Ayele, Gezahegn & Paulos, Zelekawork & Fan, Shenggen, 2006. "How Effective is Public Spending? Public Investment Composition and Rural Welfare in Ethiopia," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21258, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    7. Chekol Kidane & Getnet Alemu, 2010. "Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State : Public Finance Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 12340, The World Bank.
    8. Chemingui, Mohamed Abdelbasset, 2007. "Public spending and poverty reduction in an oil-based economy: The case of Yemen," IFPRI discussion papers 701, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Allcott, Hunt & Lederman, Daniel & Lopez, Ramon, 2006. "Political institutions, inequality, and agricultural growth : the public expenditure connection," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3902, The World Bank.
    10. Mogues, Tewodaj & Billings, Lucy, 2015. "The making of public investments: Champions, coordination, and characteristics of nutrition interventions:," IFPRI discussion papers 1479, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    11. World Bank, 2013. "Republic of Senegal Basic Agricultural Public Expenditure Diagnostic Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 20141, The World Bank.
    12. Kasuga, Hidefumi & Morita, Yuichi, 2012. "Aid effectiveness, governance and public investment," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 514-521.
    13. World Bank, 2011. "Plurinational State of Bolivia : Agriculture Public Expenditure Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 12311, The World Bank.
    14. Essama-Nssah, B., 2008. "Assessing the redistributive effect of fiscal policy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4592, The World Bank.
    15. Khalid Zaman & Bashir Khilji, 2014. "A note on pro-poor social expenditures," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 2121-2154, July.

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    Poverty Assessment; Achieving Shared Growth; Environmental Economics&Policies; Health Economics&Finance; Governance Indicators;

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