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Macroeconomic Management

Stalled productivity, stagnant economy: Chronic stress amid impaired growth

Christopher Colford's picture

Call it “secular stagnation,” or the disappointing “New Mediocre,” or the baffling “New Normal” – or even the back-from-the-brink “contained depression.” Whatever label you put on today’s chronic economic doldrums, it’s clear that a slow-growth stall is afflicting many nation’s economies – and, seven years into a lackluster recovery from the global financial crisis, some fragile economies seem to be lapsing into another slump.

As policymakers struggle to find a plausible prescription for jump-starting growth, a tug-of-war is under way between techno-utopians and techno-dystopians. It’s a struggle between optimists who foresee a world of abundance thanks to innovations like robot-driven industries, and pessimists who anticipate a cash-deprived world where displaced ex-workers have few or no means of earning an income.

To add a bracing dose of academic rigor to the tech-focused tug-of-war, along comes a data-focused realist who adds a welcome if sobering historical perspective to the debate. Robert J. Gordon, a macroeconomist and economic historian at Northwestern University, takes a longue durée perspective of technology’s impact on growth, wealth and incomes.

Gordon’s blunt-spoken viewpoint has caused a sensation since his newest book, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” was launched at this winter’s meetings of the American Economic Association. His analysis injects a new urgency into policymakers’ debates about how (or even whether) today’s growth rate can be strengthened.

When Gordon speaks at the World Bank on Thursday, March 31 – at 11 a.m. in J B1-080, as part of the Macrofiscal Seminar Series – economy-watchers can look forward to hearing some ideas that challenge the orthodoxies of recent macroeconomic thinking. His topic – “Secular Stagnation on the Supply Side: Slow Growth in U. S. Productivity and Potential Output” – seems likely to spark some new thinking among techno-utopians and techo-dystopians alike.

To watch Gordon’s speech live via Webex – at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 31 – click here. To dial in to listen to the audio, dial (in the United States and Canada) 1-650-479-3207, using the passcode 735 669 472. For those telephoning from outside the United States and Canada, the appropriate numbers can be found on this page.

Malaysia: From Developing Nation to Development Partner

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
World Bank Vice President for East Asia & Pacific on opening a new office in Malaysia

In 1954, the World Bank’s first mission report on Malaya – as the soon-to-be-independent country was called then – expressed concern about its development prospects. The mission was “favorably impressed with Malaya’s economic potentialities and prospects for expansion.” But it questioned  whether the “rates of economic progress and additions to employment opportunities can move ahead of or even keep up with the pace at which the population and the labor force are growing.”

Sixty years and 25 million more Malaysians later, hindsight proved such worries overdone as income per capita climbed from USD 250 at the time of the report to over USD$10,000 today.

 

With its successful economic and social development, Malaysia is now actively moving into a new role as a global development partner—supporting other countries in ending poverty and sharing lessons from its journey to become a regional economic powerhouse. This new role is a natural fit for a nation in transition toward a high-income status, and a big gain for the rest of us.

 

Who SEZ One Size Fits All?

Otaviano Canuto's picture

(Photo: Wiki Commons User: merlion444)From Singapore to Shenzhen, Special Economic Zones—SEZs for short—have helped underpin the rapid export-oriented growth of East Asia. In an effort to replicate these sleepy-fishing-village-turn-thriving-metropolis success stories, many countries in the developing world have created economic zones of their own—and their growth has been dramatic.

Remittances Rebound but Pressures Persist

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Remittances, or the money migrant workers send home to their countries of origin, are finally recovering to pre-crisis levels. In 2010, remittance flows to developing countries reached $325 billion, and they are poised to continue growing sustainably through 2013, according to the World Bank’s latest Outlook for Remittance Flows 2011-13.

The Cost of Financial Reform for Emerging Markets

Otaviano Canuto's picture

In the aftermath of the global economic crisis, financial market regulators have proposed a myriad of reforms to better govern the banking sector and to enhance its resilience to future shocks. In fact, in September 2010, a number of measures were agreed upon by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, an international forum designed to foster cooperation and develop standards on banking supervisory matters.

Macro-Disasters

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Earlier this month, Japan experienced one of the worst natural disasters in its history, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami that claimed the lives of thousands of people and drastically changed the lives of countless more. Sadly, this tragedy is another in a string of natural disasters that have occurred over the past few years, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, wildfires in Russia, and floods in Pakistan, West Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Australia.

Why Official Bailouts Tend Not to Work: An Example Motivated by Greece 2010

Brian Pinto's picture

A newsclip in the DECPG Daily dated April 19, 2010, noted: “After Greek aid talks were delayed by disrupted air travel, Greek bond premiums relative to German bunds spiked again on Monday.  Air travel disruptions caused by Iceland’s recent volcanic eruption delayed the start of talks on a potential bailout package....

Frontiers in Development Policy: the Role of Macro-Prudential Policies

The devastating impact of the global financial crisis, which consequently turned into a global economic crisis, created a consensus that pre-crisis financial regulation didn’t take the “Big Picture” of the system as a whole sufficiently into account. As a result, according to the views of many, supervisors in many markets “missed the forest for the tress”.


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