Policy Research Reports

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This series brings to a broad audience the results of World Bank research on development policy. The reports are designed to contribute to the debate on appropriate public policies for developing economies. Titles in this series undergo internal and external review under the management of the Research Group in the World Bank's Development Economics Vice Presidency.

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Conditional Cash Transfers : Reducing Present and Future Poverty

2009, Fiszbein, Ariel, Ferreira, Francisco H.G., Grosh, Margaret, Olinto, Pedro, Skoufias, Emmanuel

The report shows that there is good evidence that conditional cash transfers (CCTs) have improved the lives of poor people. Transfers generally have been well targeted to poor households, have raised consumption levels, and have reduced poverty, by a substantial amount in some countries. Offsetting adjustments that could have blunted the impact of transfers, such as reductions in the labor market participation of beneficiaries, have been relatively modest. Moreover, CCT programs often have provided an entry point to reforming badly targeted subsidies and upgrading the quality of safety nets. The report thus argues that CCTs have been an effective way to redistribute income to the poor, while recognizing that even the best-designed and best-managed program cannot fulfill all of the needs of a comprehensive social protection system. CCTs therefore need to be complemented with other interventions, such as workfare or employment programs and social pensions. The report also considers the rationale for conditioning the transfers on the use of specific health and education services by program beneficiaries. Conditions can be justified if households are under investing in the human capital of their children, for example, if they hold incorrect beliefs about the returns to these investments; if there is "incomplete altruism" between parents and their children; or if there are large externalities to investments in health and education. Political economy considerations also may favor conditional over unconditional transfers: taxpayers may be more likely to support transfers to the poor if they are linked to efforts to overcome poverty in the long term, particularly when the efforts involve actions to improve the welfare of children.

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Finance for All? Policies and Pitfalls in Expanding Access

2008, World Bank

This book, finance for all, presents first efforts at developing indicators illustrating that financial access is quite limited around the world and identifies barriers that may be preventing small firms and poor households from using financial services. Based on this research, the report derives principles for effective government policy on broadening access. The report's conclusions confirm some traditional views and challenge others. For example, recent research provides additional evidence to support the widely-held belief that financial development promotes growth and illustrates the role of access in this process. Improved access to finance creates an environment conducive to new firm entry, innovation, and growth. However, research also shows that small firms benefit the most from financial development and greater access-both in terms of entry and seeing their growth constraints relaxed. Hence, inclusive financial systems also have consequences for the composition and competition in the enterprise sector. This report reviews and synthesizes a large body of research, and provides the basis for sound policy advice in the area of financial access. The findings in this report also underline the importance of investing in data collection: continued work on measuring and evaluating the impact of access requires detailed micro data both at the household and enterprise level.

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Finance for Growth : Policy Choices in a Volatile World

2001-04, World Bank

The overall impact of financial globalization on the domestic financial sector is profound. Liberalization of capital flows has effectively made domestic financial repression obsolete. The consequences have not been uniformly favorable. Following liberalization, domestic interest rates in developing countries have moved to a premium over industrial country rates, and can surge at times of currency speculation. Heightened interest rate and exchange rate volatility pose practical risk management difficulties for financial intermediaries and reinforce the need for appropriate infrastructures and incentives for risk containment, as well as for good macropolicies. On the other hand, the cost of equity capital has been reduced by allowing foreign investor access to local equity markets and allowing local firms to list abroad. Increased international flows through the equity markets have not been the major contributor to increased international sources of volatility. In addition to opening access to foreign-sourced financial services, more and more countries have been permitting foreign-owned banks and other financial firms to operate locally. Although this can represent a threat to domestic owners of financial firms, the drawback is outweighed by improved service quality. On all three fronts--debt, equity, and services--the costs and risks as well as the benefits of increased financial globalization. knowledges