A decade of elevated oil prices brought prosperity to many developing countries. Incomes rose, poverty shrank, macroeconomic buffers were rebuilt. The fiscal space for investing more in education and infrastructure increased, resulting in better sharing of prosperity. At the same time, higher commodity prices and surging global demand resulted in much more concentrated exports in all developing oil-rich countries. "Diversifying exports" became a priority for policy makers and development economists around the world. Historical experience and evidence to the contrary from successful resource rich countries notwithstanding, many widely believe that a more diversified export structure should be an important national goal and may well be a synonym for development, a goal that government can target and achieve. And a more diversified export structure typically meant a smaller share of commodity exports in total shipments abroad or a reduced concentration – as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschmann index – of exports.
Middle East and North Africa
This Sunday, Tunisians will go vote for the third time this year. The first vote, the Parliamentary election on October 26, saw the secular-leaning political party Nidaa Tounes gain the majority of votes in the country’s fist free and fair election since the new constitution. As no candidate received more than the required 50% of all votes, a runoff between the two leading candidates is scheduled for Sunday.
The Syrian war and the subsequent emergence and spread of the Islamic State (ISIS) captured the world’s attention and transformed the Levant in ways one could not have imagined prior to 2011. As the numbers of dead and of refugees and internally displaced kept climbing, and as families were torn apart and neighborhoods were turned into war zones, economies slumped and regional economic ties broke down. The shock of the war has changed the region in profound ways, yet no one has done a systematic evaluation of its economic effect.
A year ago, we polled Future Development bloggers for predictions on the coming year (2014). Looking back, we find that many unforeseen (and possibly unforeseeable) events had major economic impact.
We missed the developments in Ukraine and Russia, the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the collapse in oil prices and their attendant effects on economic growth. At the same time, we picked the winner of the soccer World Cup, and got many of the technology trends right. Perhaps economists are better at predicting non-economic events.
Here’s the scorecard on the seven predictions made:
- Private Sector Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Global Economy
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Russian Federation
- United States
And Why I’m Much Older than I Thought I was
When my kids became teenagers I began to feel old: I saw myself as fit, healthy and (relatively) young but they, clearly, didn’t and it began to be un-cool to be around them. I’m now in my 40s in a world that is growing older and older (the global life expectancy is now at 72) … so what’s the big deal?
I may be young in absolute terms but definitely not in relative ones! If you’re my age – 43 years – there are 5.1 billion (in a world of almost 7.3 billion) youngsters for whom that’s old. Seen otherwise, you are part of the world's 30 percent oldest people! It was a long time ago that I was in the middle of the global age distribution: today the “median human” is only 29 years old.
The use of technology to improve productivity continues to evolve. In Modern Times, Tramp had to keep up with the crazy pace of the assembly line; in contemporary public administrations, employees have to comply with what is mandated by monitoring and reporting technologies; in today’s World Bank — I’m exaggerating a bit — we are asked to record everything we do in the multiple Bank systems. A legitimate question to ask is whether the reliance on monitoring and reporting technologies improves service delivery or, instead, whether it forces motivated civil servants or employees to waste time “feeding the beast”.
When I first arrived in Sana’a in early 2012, I met with many segments of Yemeni society; including political leaders, civil society organizations, youth, and women leaders and, of course, the new government. From the conversations I had, it was clear that education was always foremost on everyone’s mind.
Recently, the Jordan Transparency Center conducted a Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) study for the years 2001–2014 based on the guidelines issued by Transparency International. A team of academics, researchers and legal experts at the Center gathered information from local and international reports, highlighting what they see as reasons for corruption in Jordan
There is a remarkable connection between the public and private sectors in Tunisia, an intersection that I prefer to call “the Golden Boys”. It seems that Tunisia has not learned from its past mistakes; in fact, it risks going back to the old days when an elite benefited from state resources and got rich at other peoples’ expense. Everything points to the fact that Tunisia is once again providing fertile ground for corruption.
A view from Central Europe and the Baltics
Energy subsidies are common throughout the world. The bulk of subsidies are paid in the Middle East and North Africa where my colleague, Shanta Devarajan, has eloquently blogged about their corrosive impact on economic growth, on employment, on human health and on water conservation. Where I sit, in Central Europe, many countries are in the process of liberalizing their market for energy and bringing subsidies to an end. What lessons does the experience of energy price liberation in this group of countries offer to their neighbors in the south? Based on the work of my colleagues, Nistha Sinha and Caterina Ruggieri, I would draw five lessons.