Prior to the pandemic caused by COVID - 19, Colombia had shown positive results with respect to the reduction of poverty and inequality. For example, total poverty was reduced by 6.1 percentage points between 2012 and 2018 from 40.8% to 34.7% as was extreme poverty, which went from 11.7% to 8.2%, according to official statistics. Likewise, although Colombia is among the most unequal countries in the region, it reduced its Gini index by about 0.03 units from 0.539 in 2012 to 0.508 in 2017, according to data from the National Administrative Department of Statistics (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadísticas, 2021).
However, with the public health contingency, many people lost their jobs or had their incomes reduced due to pandemic containment measures that affected both aggregate supply and aggregate demand. Naturally, according to official statistics, poverty levels increased significantly and inequality rebounded to the levels of five years ago. In fact, by 2020, the country was, according to the latest ECLAC Social Panorama, the most unequal in Latin America (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2021).
In this sense, the country's tax structure plays a fundamental role to the extent that direct, indirect and in-kind transfers are transformed into support for the most vulnerable households so that they can meet their basic needs and balance these inequalities to some extent. In addition, taking into account that progressivity is one of the principles of the tax system, those with higher incomes should pay higher taxes to finance social spending. In this sense, the tax reform that began to take effect in 2018 and now the Fiscal Reform adopted at the end of 2022 made some major modifications to the corresponding statute with the objective of increasing revenues.
This project is part of the Extension of the EU-AFD Research Facility on Inequalities (RFI). Coordinated by AFD and financed by the European Commission, the Extension of the RFI will contribute to the development of public policies aimed at reducing inequalities in four countries: South Africa, Mexico, Colombia and Indonesia over the period 2021-2025.
To carry out this study, the methodology developed by the Commitment to Equity institute (CEQ) has been used, which allows to do a fiscal incidence analysis, that is, to analyze the redistributive impact of public policy instruments, on the tax side, as well as on the social spending side, on poverty and inequalities. In this sense, based on household surveys, it is possible to assess the redistributive capacity of taxes and transfers (whether direct or indirect) to guide public policy in this area.
The study will be carried out and it will be possible to observe which are those policies either from the tax side or from the expense side that allow a greater impact (negative or positive) on inequalities. This will allow us and the government to have a clear vision of the effects of the fiscal structure.
In addition, the project will seek to build a tool that parameterizes the tax structure and social spending, and will allow making microsimulations that will be useful for policy discussions. In this sense, this project will seek to accompany the teams of the Ministry of Economy, providing them with a tool that allows them to carry out the necessary simulations to evaluate the impacts of different policies. The recently adopted tax reform will therefore be analyzed through the lens of this tool.
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