Journal Issue: World Bank Research Observer, Volume 32, Issue 2

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The Opportunities and Challenges of Digitizing Government-to-Person Payments
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-08-01) Klapper, Leora ; Singer, Dorothe ; Singer, Dorothe
This paper reviews evidence on the benefits and challenges faced by governments migrating from cash to digital (electronic) government-to-person (G2P) payments. When supported by an appropriate consumer financial protection framework, digital payments enable confidential and convenient financial services, which can be especially important for women. By shifting government wages and social transfers into accounts, governments can lead by example. Digitizing G2P payments has the potential to dramatically reduce costs, increase efficiency and transparency, and help recipients build familiarity with digital payments. Digital wage and social transfer payments can also provide the on-ramp to financial inclusion and in many cases the first account that the recipient has in her own name and under her control. However, digitizing G2P payments is not without its challenges. Most importantly, digitization may require significant up-front investments in building an adequate physical payment infrastructure that is able to process such payments, as well as a financial identification system and a consumer protection and education framework to ensure that recipients have safe, reliable, and affordable access to the digital payment system.
Debunking the Stereotype of the Lazy Welfare Recipient: Evidence from Cash Transfer Programs
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-08-01) Banerjee, Abhijit V. ; Hanna, Rema ; Kreindler, Gabriel E. ; Olken, Benjamin A.
Targeted transfer programs for poor citizens have become increasingly common in the developing world. Yet, a common concern among policy-makers and citizens is that such programs tend to discourage work. We re-analyze the data from seven randomized controlled trials of government-run cash transfer programs in six developing countries throughout the world, and find no systematic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.
How Effective Are Active Labor Market Policies in Developing Countries? A Critical Review of Recent Evidence
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-08-01) McKenzie, David
Jobs are the primary policy concern of policymakers in many countries. The 2007–2008 global financial crisis, rising demographic pressures, high unemployment rates, and concerns over automation all make it seem imperative that policymakers employ increasingly more active labor market policies. This paper critically examines recent evaluations of labor market policies that have provided vocational training, wage subsidies, job search assistance, and assistance moving to argue that many active labor market policies are much less effective than policymakers typically assume. Many of these evaluations find no significant impacts on either employment or earnings. One reason is that urban labor markets appear to work reasonably well in many cases, with fewer market failures than is often thought. As a result, there is less of a role for many traditional active labor market policies than is common practice. The review discusses examples of job-creation policies that do seem to offer promise, and concludes with lessons for impact evaluation and policy is this area.
The Impacts of Fiscal Openness
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2017-08-01) de Renzio, Paola ; Wehner, Joachim
Fiscal transparency and participation in government budgeting are widely promoted, yet claims about their benefits are rarely based on convincing evidence. We provide the first systematic review covering 38 empirical studies published between 1991 and early 2015. Increased budgetary disclosure and participation—which we call “fiscal openness”—are consistently associated with improvements in the quality of the budget, as well as governance and development outcomes. Only a handful of studies, however, convincingly identify causal effects, in the form of reduced corruption, enhanced electoral accountability, and improved allocation of resources. We highlight gaps and set out a research agenda that consists of: (a) disaggregating broad measures of budget transparency to uncover which specific disclosures are related to outcomes; (b) tracing causal mechanisms to connect fiscal openness interventions with ultimate impacts on human development; (c) investigating the relative effectiveness of alternative interventions; (d) examining the relationship between transparency and participation; and (e) clarifying the contextual conditions that support particular interventions.