Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Aid and remittances as hedges against food price shocks

Food is a substantial part of household expenses in developing economies, and in many of the latter foreign aid and remittances from emigrants provide a substantial part of national income. As world food prices have been subject to large fluctuations lately, causing much grief and even riots, it is natural to ask whether aid and remittances can provide some smoothing against the effects of these fluctuations.

Jean-Louis Combes, Christian Ebeke, Mireille Ntsama Etoundi and Thierry Yogo use a cross-country panel data set to study this question. First, they confirm that food fluctuations have a notable impact on aggregate consumption, especially in the poorest economies. Second they find that aid and remittances do help, and remittances seem to be more efficient at hedging. Indeed, an aid-to-GDP ratio of 29% is theoretically necessary to absorb food price fluctuations, while 9% is sufficient is for remittances. Only Mozambique and Nicaragua satisfy the first, while a few more countries satisfy the second.

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