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The distributional impact of fiscal policy in South Africa

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  • Inchauste, Gabriela
  • Lustig, Nora
  • Maboshe, Mashekwa
  • Purfield, Catriona
  • Woolard, Ingrid

Abstract

This paper uses the 2010/11 Income and Expenditure Survey for South Africa to analyze the progressivity of the main tax and social spending programs and quantify their impact on poverty and inequality. The paper also assesses the redistributive effectiveness of fiscal interventions given the resources used. Because it applies the Commitment to Equity methodology, the results for South Africa can be compared with other middle-income countries for which the framework has also been applied. The main results are twofold. First, the burden of taxes -- namely the personal income tax, the value added tax, excises on alcohol and tobacco, and the fuel levy -- falls on the richest in South Africa and social spending results in sizable increases in the incomes of the poor. In other words, for the components examined, the tax and social spending system is overall progressive. Second, for these elements, fiscal policy in South Africa achieves appreciable reductions in income inequality and poverty. Moreover, these reductions are the largest achieved in the emerging market countries that have so far been included in the Commitment to Equity project. Although fiscal policy is equalizing and poverty-reducing, the levels of inequality and poverty that remain still rank among the highest in middle-income countries. Looking ahead, as South Africa grapples with slow economic growth, a high fiscal deficit, and a rising debt burden, addressing the twin challenges of high inequality and poverty will require not only much improved quality of public services, but also higher and more inclusive economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Inchauste, Gabriela & Lustig, Nora & Maboshe, Mashekwa & Purfield, Catriona & Woolard, Ingrid, 2015. "The distributional impact of fiscal policy in South Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7194, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:7194
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marisa Bucheli & Nora Lustig & Máximo Rossi & Florencia Amábile, 2012. "Social Spending, Taxes and Income Redistribution in Uruguay," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 1212, Department of Economics - dECON.
    2. Nora Lustig, 2016. "Commitment to Equity Handbook. A Guide to Estimating the Impact of Fiscal Policy on Inequality and Poverty," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1301, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    3. Ali Enami, 2017. "Measuring the Effectiveness of Taxes and Transfers in Fighting Inequality and Poverty," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 64, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    4. Miguel Jaramillo, 2014. "The Incidence of Social Spending and Taxes in Peru," Public Finance Review, , vol. 42(3), pages 391-412, May.
    5. Kakwani, Nanok C, 1977. "Measurement of Tax Progressivity: An International Comparison," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 87(345), pages 71-80, March.
    6. Nora Lustig & Carola Pessino, 2012. "Social Spending and Income Redistribution in Argentina During the 2000s: the Rising Role of Noncontributory Pensions," Working Papers 1221, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    7. Cabrera, Maynor & Lustig, Nora & Morán, Hilcías E., 2015. "Fiscal Policy, Inequality, and the Ethnic Divide in Guatemala," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 263-279.
    8. Jean-Yves Duclos & Martin Tabi, 1996. "The Measurement of Progressivity, with an Application to Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(s1), pages 165-170, April.
    9. Nora Lustig & Sean Higgins, 2012. "Commitment to Equity Assessment (CEQ): Estimating the Incidence of Social Spending, Subsidies and Taxes Handbook," Working Papers 1219, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    10. Sean Higgins & Claudiney Pereira, 2014. "The Effects of Brazil’s Taxation and Social Spending on the Distribution of Household Income," Public Finance Review, , vol. 42(3), pages 346-367, May.
    11. Murray Leibbrandt & Ingrid Woolard & Arden Finn & Jonathan Argent, 2010. "Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 101, OECD Publishing.
    12. Cabrera, Maynor & Lustig, Nora & Morán, Hilcías E., 2015. "Fiscal Policy, Inequality, and the Ethnic Divide in Guatemala," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 263-279.
    13. John Scott, 2014. "Redistributive Impact and Efficiency of Mexico’s Fiscal System," Public Finance Review, , vol. 42(3), pages 368-390, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:enepol:v:126:y:2019:i:c:p:108-117 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Margarita Beneke & Nora Lustig, 2015. "El Impacto de los Impuestos y el Gasto Social en la Desigualdad y la Pobreza en El Salvador," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 26, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    3. Abebe Shimeles & Ahmed Moummi & Nizar Jouini & Nora Lustig, 2016. "Fiscal Incidence and Poverty Reduction: Evidence from Tunisia," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 38, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    4. World Bank, 2015. "Georgia Public Expenditure Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 22259, The World Bank.
    5. Namibia Statistics Agency & World Bank, 2017. "Does Fiscal Policy Benefit the Poor and Reduce Inequality in Namibia?," World Bank Other Operational Studies 27538, The World Bank.
    6. Woolard Ingrid & Hundenborn Janina & Jellema Jon, 2018. "The effect of top incomes on inequality in South Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 90, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. Kalle Hirvonen & Giulia Mascagni & Keetie Roelen, 2016. "Linking taxation and social protection Evidence on redistribution and poverty reduction in Ethiopia," WIDER Working Paper Series 111, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    8. Marisa Bucheli, 2014. "Public Transfers and Poverty Reduction: an Evaluation of Program Contribution to the Exit Rate from Poverty of Children and the Elderly," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0914, Department of Economics - dECON.
    9. Nora Lustig, 2015. "Fiscal Policy and Ethno-Racial Inequality in Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala and Uruguay," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 22, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    10. Margarita Beneke & Nora Lustig, 2015. "El Impacto de los Impuestos y el Gasto Social en la Desigualdad y la Pobreza en El Salvador," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1326, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    11. Higgins, Sean & Lustig, Nora, 2016. "Can a poverty-reducing and progressive tax and transfer system hurt the poor?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 63-75.
    12. Nora Lustig, 2015. "The Redistributive Impactive of Government Spending on Education and Health Evidence from Thirteen Developing Countries in the Commitment to Equity Project," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1330, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    13. Sean Higgins & Nora Lustig, 2015. "Can Poverty-Reducing and Progressive Tax and Transfer System Hurt the Poor?," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 1333, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    14. Nora Lustig, 2015. "The Redistributive Impactive of Government Spending on Education and Health Evidence from Thirteen Developing Countries in the Commitment to Equity Project," Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Working Paper Series 30, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    15. Gemma Wright & Michael Noble & Helen Barnes & David McLennan & Michell Mpike, 2016. "SAMOD, a South African tax-benefit microsimulation model Recent developments," WIDER Working Paper Series 115, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    16. World Bank Group, 2015. "Georgia Public Expenditure Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 22674, The World Bank.

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    Keywords

    Emerging Markets; Debt Markets; Economic Theory&Research; Taxation&Subsidies; Public Sector Economics;

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