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SP Links June 21 — tax-benefit transfers in West Africa, IMF new strategy, plenty of health resources, skills in Ukraine, humanitarian case studies in Yemen and Bangladesh…

The importance of examining taxes, not just benefits — also in low-income countries! In Mali and Niger, Hounsa et al show that fiscal policy is poverty-increasing, with regressive-ish indirect taxes not countered by adequate transfers. Specifically, the fiscal system reduces the Gini index by only 4.5% in Mali and 5.6% in Niger while generating 5.9% and 5.5% higher poverty rates, respectively.

Speaking of fiscal matters, the IMF has unveiled its much-awaited social spending strategy, accompanied by 2 background papers (on consultations with third parties and on spending impacts) and 10 case studies (i.e., Bolivia, Cyprus, Ghana, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia South Africa Ukraine).

From big strategies to short reflections on cash transfers: Gomez Hermosillo discusses the state of cash transfers in Mexico and argues that “… Prospera had to be improved, not eliminated” (h/t David McKenzie); and a commentary by Green reviews the new book by de Sardan and Piccoli on cash transfers from an anthropological perspective, with the volume’s introduction available online.

We should do more work in social protection in connection to health! The sector features prominently this week: a new CGD report by Silverman et al shows that the world’s poorest countries are paying up to 30 times more for medicines than advanced economies (see also a blog by Keller and Silverman). A nature piece by Rohr et al examines the links between infectious diseases and food production. BTW, measles outbreaks soared three-fold since last year, including in Africa and Asia (h/t Jess Mosenkis). And Aregbeshola makes the case of universal primary health care in Nigeria.

But would services be preferable to transfers? An IPG report argues that universal basic services would be superior to UBI. And related to universality, there is an intersting discussion on safety nets eligibility criteria in the US: Waxman provided testimony on the topic before the US House of Representatives during a hearing titled, “Categorical Eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)”.

What about jobs? Muller and Safir explored job skills requirements from online vacancies in Ukraine. They found that all three broad categories of skills identified – cognitive, socioemotional, and technical – are highly demanded, much more than education levels, and the demand for socioemotional skills is more diverse than for the others. They conclude that online job vacancies could be a valuable complement to employer surveys.

A range of rural resources! IFAD has released its Rural Development Report 2019 focusing on investments in rural youth. Liu et al have a working paper on structural transformation in Vietnam; and a WD article by Carpena investigates the impacts of droughts on food security among rural Indian households – because of the shock, these spend 1% less per capita/month on food and consume up to 1.4% fewer calories, proteins, and fats.

Turning to crises, a group of donor agencies (EC, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US) met in Brussels to discuss shared approaches to humanitarian cash transfers – here is their statement. The Yemen case study produced as part of the “Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus” (SPaN) is out. And check out ODI’s work on Rohingya’s perspectives on displacement by Wake et al.

Another micro-channel to explain the link between climate and violence:  in Los Angeles, an NBER paper by Heilmann and Khan estimates that crime increases by up to 5.7% on days with temperatures above 85 degrees (29.4° C), with the heat-crime relationship being stronger in low-income areas.

Speaking of India, there are some tectonic demographic changes in the making: by 2050, the country will overtake China as the most populous nation worldwide, followed by Nigeria. And in Niger, where women currently have an average of 7 kids over their lifetime, population will triple.

More on Africa: ESID has three fascinating papers on political economy and ‘pockets of effectiveness’, including a lit review by Mohan, a piece by Hickey connecting such debate to African state capacity, and one by Abdulai and Mohan looking at Ghana’s ministry of finance in particular.

Let’s round up with some behavioral resources: Gauri has a thoughtful paper – ‘the right to be nudged’ – rethinking social and economic rights in light of behavioral economics, while Sievert and Steinbuks assess households’ willingness-to-pay for electricity access in Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Rwanda which, as expected, declines as households’ income dwindles.

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