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Macroeconomics and Economic Growth

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.

Secular Stagnation: A Working Pair of Scissors Needs Two Blades

Otaviano Canuto's picture
The role of asset bubbles as an unsustainable pillar of pre-2007 world economic growth has been widely recognized. Simultaneously, analysts worry that a secular stagnation, though momentarily offset by asset bubbles, may have been already at play in major advanced economies, leading to the ongoing sluggish and feeble recovery.

World Bank published latest commodity prices: May 2013

John Baffes's picture
In April of 2013, the US dollar price of energy commodities dropped by 2.9%, while the US dollar price of non-energy commodities fell by 3.1%.  Food prices are down by 3.7%, beverages increased by 1.1%, raw materials declined by 1.5%, metals dropped by 4.2% while precious metals plunged by 7.7%.

To access recent and long-term historical prices and other commodity-related information, please click here

The Many Faces of Corruption in the Russian Federation

Gregory Kisunko's picture

"No single national score can accurately reflect contrasts in the types of corruption found in a country." Michael Johnston, 2001

Corruption comes in various forms - administrative corruption being one example, state capture (a.k.a. “grand corruption”) being another. Although administrative corruption is not necessarily the most damaging form for economic growth and private sector development in Russia, and while its occurrence appears to be declining in Russia, perceptions of “state capture” are worsening.

Making the most of Africa’s growth momentum

Punam Chuhan-Pole's picture

Co-authored with Luc Christiaensen and Aly Sanoh

For a decade and a half now, Africa has been growing robustly, and the region’s economic prospects remain good. In per capita terms, GDP has expanded at 2.4 percent per year, good for an average increase in GDP per capita of 50 percent since 1996.

But the averages also hide a substantial degree of variation.  For example, GDP per capita in resource-rich countries grew 2.2 times faster during 1996-2011 than in resource-poor countries (Figure 1).  Though not the only factor explaining improved performance—fast growth has also been recorded in a number of resource-poor countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Mozambique (before its resource discoveries)—buoyant commodity prices and the expansion of mineral resource exploitation have undoubtedly played  an important role in spurring growth in several of Africa’s countries. Even more, with only an expected 4 or 5 countries on the African continent without mineral exploitation by 2020, they will continue to do so in the future. Yet, despite the better growth performance, poverty declined substantially less in resource-rich countries.

Can Tanzania achieve its Green Revolution?

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Tanzania’s rural economy and the livelihood of most of the country’s poor. As a result, rural incomes and poverty reduction are closely linked to agricultural productivity. Yet, according to FAO, yields for important staple crops in Tanzania remain very low:
- With a maize yield of 1.3 metric tons per hectare (mt/ha) in 2011, Tanzania ranks behind Kenya and Ghana (1.6 mt/ha); and way behind Vietnam (4.3 mt/ha) or China (5.7 mt/ha).
- A similar pattern holds for rice (paddy), with Tanzania’s yield of 2.0 mt/ha in 2011 being comparable to only about half of Kenya’s (4.0 mt/ha), and less than one third of China’s (6.7 mt/ha) in that year.
- It is noteworthy too that there has been no general upward trend in yields over the past two decades, though there is considerable annual variation due to rainfall patterns.

2030: Global shifts and Kenya's transformation

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

What will the world look like in 2030? Clearly, it will be very different from today and some of these changes can already be anticipated. Most of us can remember the year 1996 which is as far back in the past as 2030 is forward in the future. Today’s emerging trends will shape the world over the next two decades.

Every five years, the US’s National Intelligence Council publishes its analysis of “Global Trends”. This time, the analysis looks forward to 2030 and highlights four “megatrends” all of which will probably feel quite intuitive to people living in Africa.

Is Tanzania’s economic growth an urban phenomenon?

Jacques Morisset's picture

Tanzania has been growing steadily over the past ten years and 2012 was no different. The economy expanded by 6.9 percent, which is close to the historical average. A look at national accounts reveals that five sectors contributed to almost 60 per cent of Tanzania’s economic growth between 2008 and 2012:

- Communication GDP almost doubled in less than four years, growing on average by over 20 per cent per year.
- Banking and financial services have expanded by 11 per cent per year since 2008.
- Retail trade increased by almost 40 percent between 2008 and 2012.
- Construction surged by an average of 9 percent per year over the same period.
- Manufacturing grew annually by 8.4 percent during the last four years.

Is Tanzania strong enough to resist temptation?

Jacques Morisset's picture

Speaking about the often unruly behavior of his talented young players, Arsene Wenger, the famous Arsenal coach, said: "Some are wrong because they are not strong enough to fight temptation and some are wrong because they don't know."

Youth in Tanzania: a growing uneducated labor force

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

"The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow", so the old adage goes. All countries, including Tanzania, need to invest in and build a strong, healthy, well educated, dynamic and innovative youth.  In Africa, the number of youths (aged 14 to 25 years) have grown significantly  over the past decades, contributing to the bulk of the labor force.