Middle East and North Africa
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Macroeconomics, Egypt, International Finance, Expenditure Efficiency Measurement and Benchmarking, Latin America
Middle East and North Africa
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated February 1, 2023
Santiago Herrera Aguilera is the Lead Country Economist for Egypt in the Middle East and North Africa region at the World Bank. He has been in this position since September of 2008. He first joined the Bank in May of 1998 as a Senior Economist working for the Latin America and Caribbean Region. In February of 2004 he became the Lead Economist for economic policy at the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network in Washington. Prior to joining the Bank, Aguilera was the Deputy Minister of Finance in Columbia from 1995 to 1996. Before that, he was the Director of the National Budget also at the Columbian Ministry of Finance. Aguilera holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics from Columbia University in New York. He also holds a Masters degree in Economics from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Columbia.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-10) Herrera, SantiagoGiven that public spending will have a positive impact on GDP if the benefits exceed the marginal cost of public funds, the present paper deals with measuring costs and benefits of public spending. The paper discusses one cost seldom considered in the literature and in policy debates, namely, the volatility derived from additional public spending. The paper identifies a relationship between public spending volatility and consumption volatility, which implies a direct welfare loss to society. This loss is substantial in developing countries, estimated at 8 percent of consumption. If welfare losses due to volatility are this sizeable, then measuring the benefits of public spending is critical. Gauging benefits based on macro aggregate data requires three caveats: a) considering of the impact of the funding (taxation) required for the additional public spending; b) differentiating between investment and capital formation; c) allowing for heterogeneous response of output to different types of capital and differences in network development. It is essential to go beyond country-specificity to project-level evaluation of the benefits and costs of public projects. From the micro viewpoint, the rate of return of a project must exceed the marginal cost of public funds, determined by tax levels and structure. Credible evaluations require microeconomic evidence and careful specification of counterfactuals. On this, the impact evaluation literature and methods play a critical role. From individual project evaluation, the analyst must contemplate the general equilibrium impacts. In general, the paper advocates for project evaluation as a central piece of any development platform. By increasing the efficiency of public spending, the government can permanently increase the rate of productivity growth and, hence, affect the growth rate of GDP.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2006-09) Blanco, Fernando ; Herrera, SantiagoThe authors describe the main trends of Brazil's fiscal policy during the past decade and analyze (1) the ability to raise the primary surplus in response to external shocks, (2) the pro-cyclical nature of fiscal policy, and (3) the long-run impact of government expenditure composition and taxation. They analyze the use of the primary balance as a policy tool within the Drudi-Prati model, wherein the government uses the primary balance to reveal its commitment to service its debt. The authors verify that both the debt ratio and the primary balance are determinants of spreads and credit ratings in Brazil. But the relationship is nonlinear: the impact of the primary balance on spreads is amplified as the debt ratio increases. Using an Autoregressive Distributed Lag (ARDL) approach, the authors analyze the relationship between the primary balance and economic activity, finding a positive correlation in the long run. However, in the short run fiscal expansions are associated with primary balance reductions and vice-versa during output contractions, confirming the procyclical nature of fiscal policy in the short run. The authors use two approaches, ARDL and a cointegrating value at risk (VAR), to analyze the interaction between public expenditure composition and taxation on growth. Similar results are obtained: large elasticities of output with respect to capital stocks, a significant negative impact of taxation on long-run GDP, and a negative impact of increasing government consumption and transfer payments on GDP. These results shed light on the contribution of fiscal policy to disappointing growth performance in Brazil during the past decade.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-08) Herrera, Santiago ; Munoz, ErcioThis paper explores the determinants of public employment across the world and finds that it is negatively associated with country size (by population) and positively associated with the income level. The findings show that a country's openness to trade is positively associated with public employment in low- and middle-income countries, but inversely related in high-income countries. The estimated models are used to predict the expected public employment for a country given its income, population, and openness to trade, and to compare the actual levels with the predicted ones. In general, public employment in Latin American countries is below the predicted levels, except for Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the República Bolivariana de Venezuela. Public employment in the Middle East and North Africa is above the predicted levels, particularly in the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Islamic Republic of Iran. East Asian and Pacific countries' public employment is significantly below the predicted levels, particularly in Hong Kong SAR, China; Japan; the Republic of Korea; and Mongolia. Countries in Europe and Central Asia show higher than predicted public employment, mostly in Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Armenia, and Belorussia. Public employment in Sub-Saharan Africa appears to be below the predicted levels, with the notable exceptions of Botswana and South Africa. The deviations from predicted levels are positively correlated with the union density rate, which is negatively associated with private employment rates. Finally, the study finds no statistical association between public and private employment, suggesting the absence of crowding-out in the employment levels.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-03-09) Herrera, Santiago ; Olaberria, EduardoPolicy makers in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) often complain that poor fiscal performance in their countries is a result of a high degree of spending rigidity. Despite being a common complaint, the issue has remained largely ignored by the literature because of the lack of adequate measures of rigidity that allow cross-country and time series comparability. This report helps close this gap by introducing a new measure of spending rigidities that can be easily applied to multiple countries. It focuses on the categories of spending that are naturally inflexible—wages, pensions, transfers to subnational governments, and debt service—and separates them into two components: structural and nonstructural. The structural component is determined by economic, demographic, and institutional fundamentals. The nonstructural component is determined by short-run transitory factors associated with business and political cycles. The degree of rigidity of spending is then proxied by the ratio of structural spending to total spending, with a higher value indicating that spending is driven mostly by factors out of the policy makers’ control. This concept of rigidity was applied to 120 countries for the years 2000–17. The report concludes by discussing several policies to contain the sources of rigidity in the long term, ranging from the importance of deepening the pension reform process to the need of establishing strong fiscal institutions promoting medium-term fiscal planning.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-08) Herrera, Santiago ; Kouame, Wilfred A. ; Mandon, PierreThis paper analyzes the procyclicality of fiscal policy on the tax and spending sides in a sample of 116 developing countries between 2000 and 2016. About 20 percent of the countries in the sample switched from procyclical to countercyclical policy stance. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 30 of 39 countries remained caught in the procyclicality trap and the region has the highest degree of procyclicality. The Middle East and North Africa region switched from a countercyclical policy stance to a procyclical one over time. The Europe and Central Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean regions significantly reduced the degree of procyclicality. The main economic variables that affect procyclicality are financial depth, tax base variability, and natural resource dependence. In line with the political economy literature, the perception of corruption, social fragmentation, and inequality in resource distribution are positively associated with procyclicality. The findings also show that the quality of fiscal institutions is associated with procyclicality; countries with fiscal rules have smaller procyclical bias, but the effect is not homogeneous; and higher degrees of expenditure rigidity are associated with lower procyclical bias. The study finds asymmetric policy stances along the business cycle, with procyclicality being more pronounced during recessions. Similarly, the political cycle affects procyclicality, as procyclical bias increases in electoral years. From the tax management perspective, procyclical bias is still present, but there are significant changes: most of the political economy variables lose significance; the resource-dependence variable is not significant; external credit availability reduces procyclicality; tax base variability increases procyclical bias; and expenditure rigidity is no longer significant, but fiscal space becomes determinant of procyclical bias.
Efficiency of Public Spending in Education, Health, and Infrastructure: An International Benchmarking Exercise(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2018-09) Herrera, Santiago ; Ouedraogo, AbdoulayeGovernments of developing countries typically spend between 20 and 30 percent of gross domestic product. Hence, small changes in the efficiency of public spending could have a major impact on aggregate productivity growth and gross domestic product levels. Therefore, measuring efficiency and comparing input-output combinations of different decision-making units becomes a central challenge. This paper gauges efficiency as the distance between observed input-output combinations and an efficiency frontier estimated by means of the Free Disposal Hull and Data Envelopment Analysis techniques. Input-inefficiency (excess input consumption to achieve a level of output) and output-inefficiency (output shortfall for a given level of inputs) are scored in a sample of 175 countries using data from 2006-16 on education, health, and infrastructure. The paper verifies empirical regularities of the cross-country variation in efficiency, showing a negative association between efficiency and spending levels and the ratio of public-to-private financing of the service provision. Other variables, such as inequality, urbanization, and aid dependency, show mixed results. The efficiency of capital spending is correlated with the quality of governance indicators, especially regulatory quality (positively) and perception of corruption (negatively). Although no causality may be inferred from this exercise, it points at different factors to understand why some countries might need more resources than others to achieve similar education, health, and infrastructure outcomes.