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Europe and Central Asia

Growth Without Apology

Shanta Devarajan's picture

 Chhor Sokunthea / World BankFrom time to time, countries experience rapid economic growth without a significant decline in poverty. India’s GDP growth rate accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s, but poverty continued to fall at the same pace as before, about one percentage point a year. Despite 6-7 percent GDP growth, Tanzania and Zambia saw only a mild decline in the poverty rate. In the first decade of the 21st century, Egypt’s GDP grew at 5-7 percent a year, but the proportion of people living on $5 a day—and therefore vulnerable to falling into poverty—stagnated at 85 percent.

In light of this evidence, the World Bank has set as its goals the elimination of extreme poverty and promotion of shared prosperity. While the focus on poverty and distribution as targets is appropriate, the public actions required to achieve these goals are not very different from those required to achieve rapid economic growth. This is not trickle-down economics.  Nor does it negate the need for redistributive transfers. Rather, it is due to the fact that economic growth is typically constrained by policies and institutions that have been captured by the non-poor (sometimes called the rich), who have greater political power. Public actions that relax these constraints, therefore, will both accelerate growth and transfer rents from the rich to the poor.

Some examples illustrate the point.

Two Forums, One Common Goal

Ilya Domashov's picture
Citizen participation in any issue is most often thought of in the context of formal procedures. Sometimes, civil society representatives, like me, are invited to events, commissions or programs that ensure formal connections with civil society. So while we are not ignored, our participation feels more like a cursory part of the process, without any significant opportunity to influence the processes or explain our position.

This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.
 


The forum in question --  the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together  about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.

”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.  

Development Assistance in Governance and Public Sector Management: Does It Ever Make a Big Difference?

Nick Manning's picture

Mother and boy being attended to by Health Education nurse

Are there examples of large scale development achievements which are likely attributable to development assistance? At the least there is the Marshall Plan (1948-1952), the “Green Revolution,” and global health programs which largely eradicated smallpox. At the country level, Korea, Taiwan, and Botswana are often cited as aid success stories with remarkable economic progress following significant aid infusions. So the summary answer is probably (and the answer might be more affirmative if we addressed the perennial problem of poor data collection). But if we apply the additional filter of “what did this have to do with assistance concerning governance and public sector management?” the answer is, at best, maybe.

Taking the example of the major public health advances supported by donors, advances in the measurement of health impacts in the early 2000s led to major costs savings and efficiencies in HIV/AIDS and malaria programs, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative had clear impact, the annual Human Development Reports have charted some truly outstanding areas of progress and there has been some, halting, progress towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  However, it seems that few of these gains seem have deep roots in the improved performance of governments. Development assistance seems able to trigger improvements through standalone arrangements outside of the public sector and through logistical efforts to move material (pumps, vaccinations, and medical supplies). It does not seem to be so good at large scale governance and public sector management (GPSM) improvements.

The Balkans: Not Enough Skills or Not Enough Work?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

City bus arrives at a station World BankIn many economies of the Balkans high formal unemployment is often blamed on insufficient skills in the labor force. But this intuitive diagnosis glosses over two fundamental questions, namely: why are workers not training themselves to find jobs, and why aren’t firms investing in upgrading the skills of their employees? In other words, the market seems to be failing by not allocating resources where high returns can be found. In this blog post, we cast doubt on the diagnosis and look beyond the skills gap explanation to high unemployment in the Western Balkans. But this is not unique to the Balkans. Take the US construction industry, which is among the most productive in the world even though it employs many relatively low skilled workers, often immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries, who improved their individual productivity several fold by migrating – not upgrading skills.

There is no doubt about the problem as throughout the region unemployment – particularly formal – remains unacceptably high. Serbia is a case in point: Out of a population of 7.2 million people and a workforce of 4.5 million, only 710,000 Serbians have a formal, private sector job. If you add some 380,000 ‘sole proprietors’ – basically people who run mini-shops – you get to around 1.1 million people in the formal private sector. That means that the livelihood of the whole country is built around this 15 percent of the population. Can it really be that firms are still not able to find sufficiently skilled employees in the large remaining pool, especially given that Serbia has decent education results? If finding skilled workers in Serbia is like looking for needles in a haystack, there are surely a lot of needles to be found.
 

What Does Piketty’s Capital Mean for Developing Countries?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

The economics book that has launched a thousand blog posts, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Country, tells a grand story of inequality past and present. One would expect that a book on global inequality would have much to say about development. However, the book has limited relevance for the developing world, and the empirical data he marshals for developing countries is weak.

Piketty’s central story is that convergence in the developed world and slower population growth will leave us with a permanently modest economic growth rate (g). Coupled with a constant return to wealth (r), concentration of capital ownership, and high rates of savings among the wealthy, the low g leads to rising wealth inequality over a longish run—something like the second half of the 20th century.

A low-g future for the developed world is a mostly uncontroversial assumption. (He assumes future GDP per capita growth of 1.2 percent for the U.S.) But Piketty draws conclusions for the world as a whole, and we are a long way from global convergence. As Branko Milanovic noted in his review, catch-up growth could fend off Piketty’s inequality dystopia for some time.
 

World Bank Helps With Flood Recovery Efforts in Serbia

Laura Tuck's picture

Laura Tuck, Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region for the World Bank, discusses the World Bank's role in assisting Serbia with recovery and reconstruction following recent floods, and other economic reforms in the country.

Albania - On the Path Toward Economic Growth and Development

Laura Tuck's picture

Laura Tuck, Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank, discusses her recent trip to Albania, during which she had broad ranging discussions with the government and other partners on the country's growth and development.

What we can learn from domain name liberalization in Turkey and Tunisia

Michel Rogy's picture
Also available in: Français | Türkçe

 

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[1] 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.

Floods in The Balkans

Ellen Goldstein's picture

Ellen Goldstein, The World Bank's Regional Director for Eastern Europe, talks about the Bank's response to devastating floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A development e-story: Estonia

Swati Mishra's picture

"Once upon a time in the faraway Baltic region was a tiny nation of Estonia. Newly independent, with a population of 1.3 million, and with 50 percent of its land covered in forests, it was saddled with 50 years of under development. While it was operating with a 1938 telephone exchange, it’s once comparable neighbor across the gulf, Finland, had a 30 times higher GDP per capita and was waltzing its way into new technological advances. Estonia was faced with the challenge of catching-up with the rest of the world. It too embarked upon the technology bandwagon, but revolutionized it’s progression, by creating identity, secured digital Identity for its citizens. And finally, Estonia became a country teeming with cutting-edge technology. The end. “


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