‘Gender Equality’ is a concept that's finally entering the mainstream. It connotes equal rights to education, to vote, to work, to have access to finance, and other basic entitlements for both men and women. Unfortunately, while some equality milestones have been reached, in many cases attainment is a distant goal. Take the case of ‘Justice’. “In many countries of the world the rule of law still rules women out,” says the latest UN Report ‘Progress of the Worlds Women – In Pursuit of Justice’. The report, released today, highlights women’s access to justice systems in almost every country in the world. It focuses on issues such as number of seats held by women in their country’s parliament, laws against domestic violence, and so on. “The Paradox confronted by the report is that despite the recent and rapid expansion of women’s legal entitlements, what is written in the statute books does not always translate into real progress on equality and justice on the ground,” says Claire Provost in a post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog. The report also has a wealth of data; see the interactive map here.
The potential for expanding the industrial sectors of African countries is substantial – this was a message I delivered on a recent trip to Italy, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. This can happen through an improved understanding of the mechanics of economic transformation as well as by focusing on how such countries can follow their comparative advantage in natural resources and labor supply.
During my site visits and meetings with the private sector for the African segments of my trip, I became more convinced than ever of the strong untapped potential for private sector-led industrialization. Yet that can only happen when the government plays a facilitating role, such as by overcoming information asymmetries, coordination failures and externalities associated with first-mover actions. In Tanzania, initial experiments with industrial parks look promising, as do agricultural development projects and rural transport initiatives currently under way. In the case of industrial parks, it’s important to have a one-stop shop for registration and other administrative obligations, adequate electricity and water supply, and good transport/logistics links.
(Available in Chinese)
Food prices have received a lot of attention recently. Understandably, much of the attention is on recent developments and short term prospects. But in this blog post I try to look back at some longer term trends, in order to look further ahead.
Since the early 2000s, food related prices have trended up (Figure 1). The deflator of agricultural value added has risen 8% per year on average since 2000, after falling during the second half of the 1990s. Producer Price Index (PPI) food prices (factory gate) have risen much less because prices of other inputs into the food processing industry have gone up less and rapid productivity growth in food processing has dampened the transmission of higher raw food prices.
|Light manufacturing operations in a Chinese standardized factory building|
There is an increasing consensus about the need of poorer economies to shift away from low technology, low productivity areas into new product areas, particularly to generate non-commodity exports. The figure below shows the low level of manufactured exports from the poorest region, sub-Saharan Africa (SSF) as well as from Southeast Asia (SAS) compared to other regions. It is this disparity that many have in mind in urging a sectoral transformation. In the 1950s and early ‘60s there was an argument for a “big push” in development premised on export pessimism.
|*lcn- Latin America & Caribbean, mea- Middle East & Africa, SAS - Southest Asia, ssf- Sub-Saharan Africa, eap- East Asia & Pacific, and eca- Europe & Central Asia|
The emphasis on the big push and balanced growth continued until the 1970s when the success of export oriented countries in Asia such as Korea and Taiwan (China) demonstrated that it was possible to escape the need to have balanced internal growth. Annual export growth of 15 percent or more helped to effect a major transformation in many of the newly industrialized Asian nations. A critical question is whether five decades later this option is still open.
|Image courtesy of Caitfoto through a Creative Commons license|
|Image courtesy of Caitfoto through a Creative Commons license|
Following the very successful earlier engagements of a Khmer palm reader and a celebrity turtle-shell fortune teller, the Thailand economic team has recently hired the forecasting star of the moment to divine the future of the economy. I am not talking about Professor Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini, but Octopus Paul, who had to escape Germany in a hurry to avoid becoming “pulpo a la Gallega”. For a hefty fee of a five shrimps, the wise cephalopod spent a few hours in our offices sharing his prognosis for the Thai economy.
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.
- Sri Lanka
- Korea, Republic of
- South Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Urban Development
- Science and Technology Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Macroeconomics and Economic Growth
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Cross Learning
As Malaysia redefines its growth strategy, the question of which sector to promote has been a subject of ongoing debate. Some have argued that the strategy should emphasize manufacturing – and preferably high-tech manufacturing – as innovation activity is most forthcoming in this sector. Others have countered that services are key, as the typical economic structure of an advanced economy is oriented towards services. Tradable services are also fast becoming an engine of growth.
As part of its regular monitoring of the corporate sector in Southeast Asia, the World Bank economic team I am part of in Thailand has been working on a short case study of supply chains of Japanese multinational companies (MNCs) in the electrical and electronics (E&E) industry. We wanted to hear directly from firms about how the crisis affected them, how they were able to adjust so quickly to the drop in demand, what the rebound looked like, and what were the prospects going forward to upgrade along the value chain. I have learned a great deal from these interviews, and have become convinced that supply chains are central to understanding the current crisis in Thailand and East Asia more generally.
Some facts: the crisis had a disproportionate impact on manufacturing. In Thailand, manufacturing represents about 40 percent of GDP, but contractions in manufacturing value added have accounted for about 75 percent of the contraction of headline GDP. Within manufacturing, the auto and E&E industries account for the bulk of the contraction. Most of the output in those industries is exported, and more than three-fourths of the decline in Thai exports during the crisis was due to falls in shipments from the auto and E&E industries. My conclusion is that the magnitude of the crisis in Thailand has been driven primarily by these two industries.