The 2008-2009 global financial crisis led to a number of large–scale government interventions across the world. These included massive provisions of liquidity, the takeover of weak financial institutions, the extension of deposit insurance schemes, purchases by the government of troubled assets, bank recapitalization and, of course, packages of fiscal stimulus, sometimes of a scale not seen since World War II. Even the IMF, the world’s traditional guardian of sound public finance, came out strongly in favor of fiscal loosening, arguing through its managing director that “if there has ever been a time in modern economic history when fiscal policy and a fiscal stimulus should be used, it's now” and that it should take place “everywhere where it's possible. Everywhere where you have some room concerning debt sustainability. Everywhere where inflation is low enough not to risk having some kind of return of inflation, this effort has to be made".
The growth of large metropolitan areas around the world has been very recent and very rapid, particularly when measured against the duration of human beings’ existence as a species. For the first 95% of our time on earth, we built no settlements at all. Cities of a million people arose during only the last 1% of homo sapiens’ time on earth, and there are already 500 such cities in the world today.
If we have spent most of our existence as small wandering bands, does that mean we are ill-equipped to manage urban settlements of this vast size? The key to success in our current urban transformation may in fact be the same as the key to mankind’s earliest origins - our ability to cooperate.
Economic development theorists and practitioners are increasingly using the term “middle-income trap” to describe the situation where developing economies’ convergence to the development frontier comes to a halt once their income per capita reaches a middle-income level. The term is ambiguous: is it a halt in convergence or slowdown in growth, and what exactly is the definition of middle-income? Nevertheless, the concept has been successfully used to create a scare that developing countries are more likely to run out of breath or even give up the race in the middle of the track than to continue catching up with the leading economies. Eichengreen et al. and several IMF economists are among those who provide empirical evidence that the “middle-income trap” is real and that developing countries do get stuck at some low-level equilibrium.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Warsaw to attend a conference jointly organized by the Polish and Turkish Central Banks (“Polish and Turkish Transitions: Achievements and Challenges Ahead”) on the occasion of 600 years of diplomatic relations between Poland and Turkey. Six centuries of (predominantly friendly) relations is indeed worthy of commemoration, but for our Polish hosts another anniversary was of even greater importance: 25 years ago, Poland was the first country from the former Communist Block to embark on the transition towards democracy and market economy. For Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries that joined it as new members of the European Union 10 years ago, this transition laid the foundation for a remarkable economic, cultural and political revival as Indermit Gill and I have argued in Golden Growth. Indeed, many in Poland would agree with the Economist that Poland has not had it as good as today ever since it was the preeminent Central European power some 500 years ago.
How can we best promote the use of Internet by private companies – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – in Africa? This question is of growing significance on a continent where most of the population is under 20 years of age and – compared to the previous generation – increasingly accessing information through digital channels as a result of the rapid expansion of mobile broadband services.
This question is also crucial in terms of growth and competitiveness in the context of the growing economic globalization, where customers and business partners use information and communication technologies in a much more intensive manner.
A competitive export sector is one of the key engines of a successful transition to high income. Turkish policy makers knew this well, and so they put an increase in export competitiveness at the forefront of their ambitious targets to get the country into the top 10 economies worldwide by 2023. What are the chances of success?
To try and answer this question, the World Bank working closely with Turkey’s Ministry of Economy carried out a Trade Competitiveness Diagnostic (“Turkey Country Economic Memorandum: Trading Up to High Income”), which was just launched in Ankara. The team looked at how Turkey did during the past decade, a period of rapid growth in global trade. It turns out that Turkey did pretty well – its exports during the 2000s grew 15.3 percent annually, twice the average growth in the OECD, 6 percentage points above world trade growth and only 4 percentage points slower than in China. Turkey’s global market share grew by 60 percent (from 0.53 to 0.82 percent) between 2002 and 2009 and is getting close to Turkey’s share of the world population (1.06 percent). At the same time, Turkey increased its export sophistication and improved product quality.
For client countries of the World Bank, there is no shortage of interest in—or desire for—information on trade flows and market access. Improving trade performance is a critical component of many client countries’ development strategies, and trade data hold the key to understanding how countries are faring in the quest to eliminate trade barriers, increase competitiveness, and turn improved market access into actual trade flows.
But the trade data arena is large and complex, full of topical jargon, different nomenclatures and coding systems, availability constraints, and potentially complicated indicators. For newcomers, trade data navigation can be particularly challenging, which belies the immense value and richness in the wealth of information that has become available and accessible over the past few years.
Enter the World Integrated Trade Solution, or WITS.
While many economies are recovering from the global recession, there are still 600 million jobs needed to be created over the next decade to maintain today's employment rates. Eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent of the population by 2030 requires that we engage more effectively to bring hundreds of millions of people into productive work and out of poverty.
While many initiatives on youth employment have been undertaken over the past few years, there is still limited knowledge about the best way to design, implement and coordinate these interventions, and how to link them to broader reforms that promote private investment and business creation and/or expansion. At the same time, the limited knowledge that we do have does not take into account the significant heterogeneity of constraints across settings and different youth populations, and few programs are designed to take into account these differences in context and needs.
Across the globe, young people are a growing share of the labor force. Goals about poverty reduction and shared prosperity depend on the jobs and earnings opportunities they will have. The technical, cognitive, and behavioral skills (such us teamwork, problem-solving skills and creativity) of workers will determine, to a large extent, their job and earnings opportunities. Unfortunately, around the world, much of the labor force has very low levels of education. Young people graduating from vocational centers or universities often lack the relevant skills for the labor markets.
At this year’s Solutions4Work conference, more than 170 academics, business leaders, and government ministers gathered together in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss challenges and solutions facing countries in addressing youth employment. At the conference, we are particularly energized to hear from youth groups and entrepreneurs from around the world who are creating a movement, change in culture, and tools for their fellow youth.