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Macroeconomists for the Poor

Kyle Slattery/Flickr Creative Commons license

Headwinds for all

Oscar Calvo-González's picture
The ongoing economic slowdown has lowered growth across all segments of the income distribution in Latin America, leaving behind the much different story of the mid-2000s. Back then economic growth was not just high; it also benefited the poor more than the rest of the population. In fact, between 2006 and 2011, Latin America and the Caribbean had the highest growth rate in the world for the incomes of the poorest 40 percent of the population. Since then, however, growth rates have continued to decelerate.
 

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.

What’s the connection between financial development, volatility, and growth?

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Understanding macroeconomic volatility part 3
Read parts 1 & 2


There’s good evidence that a country’s level of financial development affects the impact of volatility on economic growth, particularly so in less developed countries, as the charts below demonstrate
 

Do rich and poor countries have different approaches to counter-cyclical spending?

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Understanding Macroeconomic Volatility: Part 2

The fact is that a government can soften a recession by increasing spending (the counter-cyclical approach) to raise demand and output. If government reduces spending (the pro-cyclical approach), the likely result is a deeper recession.

Tame macroeconomic volatility to boost growth and reduce hardship in the Caribbean

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Volatility in financial markets gets wide attention in the public eye. Less noticed is what we in the development world call macroeconomic volatility—faster-than-desired swings in the broad forces which shape an economy. Think investment, government spending, interest rates, foreign trade and the like.

There are three key questions to analyze: how do these forces interact, what is their effect on overall growth, and what policies are best to follow? All this is of more than academic interest: macroeconomic volatility can bring substantial hardships to millions of people

When growth alone is not enough

Luc Christiaensen's picture

Africa’s robust annual economic expansion of 4.5% during 1995-2013 has come along with appreciable progress in human welfare. African newborns can now expect to live 6.2 years longer than in 2000, the prevalence of chronic malnutrition among children under five declined by six percentage points, and the number of deaths of violent events dropped from 20 (in the late 1990s) to four. Africans are also more empowered, manifested, among others, through greater participation of women in household decision making.

At the same time, for every five adults, two remain illiterate, life expectancy still only stands at 57— 10 years less than in South Asia – and the number of violent events has been on the rise again since 2010. The human development challenge remains substantial. Moreover, despite being a major force behind Africa’s growth renaissance, citizens in resource-rich countries did not experience a commensurate jump in their education or health status. On the contrary, results from the World Bank’s recent Africa Poverty Report “Poverty in a Rising Africa,” suggest that it is especially resource-rich countries which are bad at converting their economic fortunes into better human development.
 

Testing times for South Africa

Marek Hanusch's picture

 Steven Hall, World Bank Group

Concerns about South Africa’s economy have been rising, after years of slowing growth following the post-financial crisis peak of 3.2% in 2011. South Africans lament the plunge of the Rand—a 30% depreciation against the U.S. dollar over the year 2015. They fear the potential of South Africa losing its high-prized investment grade credit rating. Many, especially the youth, live with high and largely chronic unemployment, currently at 25.5%, or 36% when including those who have given up looking for a job. Not surprisingly unemployment is the top concern for 72% of South Africans according to the 2015 Afrobarometer. Growth and job creation are crucial for sustaining the impressive economic and social progress the country has achieved since the end of apartheid—and to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, as envisioned by the National Development Plan (NDP).

Reforming fiscal rules and boosting investment to avoid the ‘new normal’ in Europe

Ivailo Izvorski's picture
Photo by Brookings.eduThe European Union (EU) has settled into a “new normal” of mediocre growth, with real GDP set to expand by about 2 percent in 2015 and in 2016. With sizeable unemployment and still not full capacity utilization, this weak pace of expansion is a clear reminder that there is a more profound and longer-term crisis in Europe than the economic and financial turmoil of 2007-08, the recession in 2012, and the challenges of the southern cone that required large International Monetary Fund programs.

Few of the challenges that have plagued Europe this century have been resolved. Government spending and debt are up, yet potential growth is weak. Fixed investment has declined substantially to lows not seen in decades. Medium-term risks are elevated, but with fiscal space greatly reduced and with monetary policy in unconventional territory, policymakers have precious little ammunition to tackle any future shocks.

Ethiopia’s growth miracle: What will it take to sustain it?

Lars Christian Moller's picture



If you are curious to know which country has achieved double digit growth in the last 12 years, making it the fourth fastest-growing in the world, the answer is Ethiopia. And what is more striking is that if Ethiopia sustains its current pace of growth, it will become a middle income country by 2025.

Belarus: Achieving high-income is not possible without completing the transition to a market economy

Ivailo Izvorski's picture


Belarus is undergoing two transitions. The first is the transition to high income. This is a feat that has been accomplished by only about two dozen counties since the 1950s, half of which have done so during the last twenty-five years. The second is the transition to a market economy. Completing the first transition will be impossible without achieving the second one. And here is why...

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