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Re-thinking Economic Policy: An Overview

Raj Nallari's picture

The global financial and economic crisis of 2008 has brought an urgency to focus on shorter-term policy issues related to managing bubbles, analyzing current development paradigms, and drawing out policy lessons for future action, particularly lessons learned during the past two years. At the same, longer-term development challenges also must be addressed to avoid the mistakes of 1970s and 1980s when managing stabilization issues dominated economic policy making and development economics was pushed aside for a while. For example, with the exception of East Asian countries and more recently India, why are African, Eastern European and Central Asian, and other South Asian countries unable to sustain high growth rates for more than five to seven years? What are the policy implications of demographic changes and climate change? There is a need for policy discussion on frontier topics such as rethinking globalization in trade, finance, and labor; new economic geography; green growth; and inclusive, balanced, and sustainable growth.

The 15th-century Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli is said to be the first to state, “Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis.” During a crisis, countries experiment with policies and learn a lot in a hurry. This overview shares this learning on early policy responses to the current economic crisis, focusing particularly on specific issues that are of interest to policy makers and practitioners in the developing countries. The overview is a compilation of notes that staff members of the World Bank Institute have used during global dialogues and international seminars and conferences since October 2008.

What brought the world to the edge of an abyss in September 2008? After quickly recovering from the Asian crisis of 1997-98, world economic growth accelerated during the period 2000-07. However, in hindsight, there was a ‘perfect storm’ in the making as US and European housing defaults began to pile up beginning in late 2006, oil prices doubled in a few months during late 2007 and early 2008, while rice, wheat, and corn prices jumped by 40-50% during the same period.

Resource Wealth Need No Longer Be a Curse

James Bond's picture

Recently, my colleague Cara Santos Pianesi flagged an op-ed she thought might interest me. The aptly-titled op-ed, Resource wealth need no longer be a curse was written by Mats Berdal and Nader Mousavizadeh and published in the FT on March 25th.

Should South Asia Emulate the East Asian Tigers?

Joe Qian's picture

When thinking about development, I always look for opportunities for cross learning between regions. Having lived in and traveled extensively in East Asia and having worked in the South Asia Region for over a year, I often compare and think about prospects between the two regions. One question in particular is whether South Asia should aim to emulate East Asia’s manufacturing and export driven development model. Japan began using this model starting in the 1950’s and most East Asian countries particularly, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and most recently China have used manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

According to the World Development Indicators, manufacturing accounted for over 30% of GDP in East Asia and Pacific while it is around 15% in South Asia. Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG’s) industry is one example of manufacturing success as it has proven to be exceptionally competitive in the global market. However, holistically, I found that South Asia has distinctive characteristics and quickly moving towards an East Asian export-led model may not be most effective.

How 'Big Data' Can Benefit the Public Good

Aleem Walji's picture

Patrick Svenburg, co-founder of Random Hacks of Kindness, tells "Developers for Development" audience: "There's no shortage of big ideas in the world.  It's the action part that's often lacking."


“Big Data” –- the billions upon trillions of bytes of digital information that are pumped into cyberspace every nanosecond –- has a single, secular mission: to keep growing. Now, software developers – the not-so-nerdy techies who keep Big Data growing at its feverish rate –- are striving to channel Big Data into the public good.

On Monday at the World Bank, developers came together with the development community -- in person and virtually through Skype video -- to figure out how to do that.

The entire "Developers for Development" can be seen on B-Span, the World Bank's webcasting service.

The afternoon event, which attracted an auditorium-ful of in-person visitors (many of them curious staffers from risk management and ICT at the World Bank) and many more via the live webcast that was offered in English, French, and Spanish, started with developers showing what's already been achieved since the first CrisisCamp about data and the public good was convened in Washington with CrisisCommons-World Bank co-sponsorship in June 2009.

The first demo was about the on-the-fly proliferation of CrisisCamps internationally in response to the earthquake that devastated Haiti in February.

Two habits of successful Kenyan companies

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

My colleague Jane Kiringai and I have been visiting Kenyan companies every 2-3 weeks. These visits have convinced me that Kenya can indeed make enormous progress and prosper. The strength of these companies and their peers is one reason why, after four waves of shocks since 2008, Kenya is still standing. Just imagine of how the country would prosper if the bottlenecks facing companies and individuals were removed!


We have been visiting companies producing cut flowers, textiles, dairy, consumer goods, telecommunication services, and most recently, an up-and-coming brewery. Despite their differences, the most impressive companies were similar with respect to two related management principles:

Powering up Africa

Rebecca Post's picture

Breaking news! The OrPower4 Project has been awarded:
African Renewables Deal of the Year 2009 from Project Finance Magazine.

After a long journey to Nairobi, in the midst of a much-needed shower, the room went black. Fortunately the lights came on a few seconds later. My good fortune was only due to the fact that the hotel’s generator kicked in – with its attendant high cost and environmental and safety hazards. 

I’m no stranger to the power outages that present themselves nearly every evening in this part of the world, but it’s one thing to experience a minor inconvenience, quite another for the business that is losing money due to power outages, the student who is losing out on opportunities because she can’t study at night, or the doctor trying to treat a victim of a late-night road accident. And these are the lucky ones. Only 15 percent of all Kenyans have any access to electricity.

L’UEMOA à Quinze Ans

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Mon ami, l’économiste togolais Kako Nubukpo, avec qui j’ai eu l’occasion de débattre lors d’un de mes voyages à Lomé, a fait part de son analyse sur le bilan des quinze années d’existence de l’Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine (UEMOA) lors d’un entretien pour le site Ouestaf.com.

D’après lui, même si l’Union est parvenue à gérer l’équilibre macroéconomique et budgétaire entre les États membres, la combinaison d’une monnaie forte (du fait de la parité fixe entre le franc CFA et l’euro) avec ce qu’il appelle « la gouvernance macroéconomique » restreint la compétitivité et donc la diversification et la croissance économique des pays membres.

Ces commentaires émanant d’un économiste qui est actuellement consultant auprès de l’UEMOA relanceront peut-être le débat sur les performances et les options économiques des pays d’Afrique francophone.

Afternoon with Joe—Thoughts on Risk and Foreign Direct Investment

Michael Strauss's picture

My thanks again go out to the World Bank InfoShop for the opportunity to hear and meet former World Bank Chief Economist—and, indeed, Nobel Laureate—Joseph Stiglitz, who came to speak yesterday about his new book, "Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy".  His trademark frank analysis was both refreshing and enlightening; especially interesting, if troubling, was his view that central bankers’ inflation-hawk instincts will increase the likelihood of a double-dip recession.Freefall

This was a very general presentation about some of the hubristic, anti-regulatory thinking that created the conditions for the recent crisis and the errors in countries’ responses to it.  Stiglitz also excoriated the failures of political will and the power of the strongly entrenched, well-represented interests currently standing in the way of true reform.  These are his views, of course—I make no claims to know enough about what “really” happened to be authoritative on the subject, other than to say that his arguments were persuasive and his examples illuminating.

One subject I was surprised to hear him discuss, however, was the role of interconnected global capital markets in financial crises.  This was a key issue raised after the Asian crisis in the late 1990s; less so for the current “great recession”—although Stiglitz’s tag line that this was a crisis “made in America” and exported around the world reflects a common conclusion of much recent analysis.  


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