Competitive Real Exchange Rates Are Good for the Poor: Evidence from Egyptian Household Surveys - Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Competitive Real Exchange Rates Are Good for the Poor: Evidence from Egyptian Household Surveys

Ibrahim Elbadawi and Eman Refaat

June, 2018


7 pages

E4. Money and Interest Rates
F4. Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance

In a nutshell

  • The real exchange rate (RER) is an economy-wide relative price, closely monitored by governments due to its perceived influence on export competitiveness and growth (a definition of RER and associated concepts are provided in the below annex).
  • A recent study1 assessing both the direct and indirect poverty impact of the RER on Egypt finds the net effect of RER depreciation/(moderate) undervaluation to be strongly pro-poor (Elbadawi and Refaat, 2015).
  • Overall, real currency depreciation/undervaluation leads to higher average wages and other non-wage incomes for both poor and non-poor households. Moreover, an RER-led growth strategy is in fact pro-poor because the marginal impact on the income of the poor was found to be higher than that of the non-poor.
  • However, an RER depreciation/undervaluation exchange rate policy has differing effects on wages across economic sectors and on different types of non-wage income; those negatively affected include those employed in some (but not all) non-tradable sectors or those receiving transfers from social funds.
  • Therefore, accounting for both the indirect growth as well the direct distributional poverty effects of the RER is highly relevant for policymaking in view of two critical public policy aspects:
  • It allows evaluating the extent to which such an undervaluation/depreciation strategy is more effective in terms of the poverty reduction goal relative to alternative growth strategies, such as those that favor non-traded activities.
  • Moreover, by allowing a better understanding of the channels through which RER undervaluation might influence poverty at the household level, the evidence from such research should also inform actionable, sector-specific public policy interventions.
Research Fellows

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Managing Director, Economic Research Forum


Eman Refaat

Senior Economic Specialist at the Department of Economic Development, Dubai government



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