“Right at the heart of market thinking is the idea that if two consenting adults have a deal, there is no need for others to figure out whether they valued that exchange properly. It’s the non-judgmental appeal of market reasoning that I think helped deepen its hold on public life and made it more than just an economic tool; it has elevated it into an unspoken public philosophy of everything.”
How relevant is ICT for transport? The emergence of low-cost open-source mapping tools; widespread cellular network coverage in developing countries; declining costs of mobile phone hardware; and increasing Internet use by public agencies have resulted in unprecedented opportunities to support transport planning and management in developing countries.
Uganda has become a successful exporter of education services to countries in East Africa. In West Africa, Nigerian financial institutions have expanded branch networks throughout the region making available the benefits of scale to consumers in very small countries. African supermarket chains are spreading throughout the continent. These are some of the successes Africa is seeing as it fights to integrate the market for regional trade in services.
Here is a trillion dollar question: How will the portfolios of long-term asset managers like pension funds, foundations and endowments be affected by climate change? These institutions, in contrast to commercial banks, are legally obligated to take a long-term view in managing their returns. A new report by Mercer, a leading consulting and investment services firm, provides the first look at yet another window on the complex consequences of climate change—the implications for strategic asset allocation.
A headline result of the study is the estimated increase of up to 10 % in overall portfolio risk, primarily due to policy uncertainty—equivalent to as much as US$8 trillion by 2030. Traditional equity and bond holdings—usually the most conservative forms of hedging against uncertainty –- are most at risk of underperformance. In contrast, carefully selected investments in climate- sensitive sectors may actually reduce overall portfolio risk.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and UK’s Carbon Trust, along with 14 institutional investors collectively managing over US$2 trillion, funded the analysis, which was carried out by Mercer. The analysis looks at impacts by sector, region, and asset category (bonds, private equity, real estate, etc.) and builds on a set of climate change scenarios out to 2030 developed by the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and the consulting firm Vivid Economics.
If the proven, certified technology is cheap, makes companies more profitable, and at the same time, more green, then why doesn’t every company use it?
This is the mystery that our team now faces in Guangdong Province, China, where we are leveraging a multi-million dollar grant from the Global Environment Facility to support the retrofitting of freight trucks with Smartway (and similarly) verified Green Freight technologies*. These technologies improve the fuel efficiency of trucks, and their costs are recovered through fuel savings – in some cases, in as little as six months. So, the pervasive question – if they are so cost-effective and improve the competitiveness of businesses, why aren’t these technologies used…everywhere?
It is an interesting question, because its answer points us to the broader issue of market barriers in developing countries. How do we identify these barriers, and what is that "spark" that sets market forces in motion?
We have just published a working paper reporting on a global survey of central banks on how governments regulate and collect data on cross-border remittance flows.* During 2008-9, we sent questionnaires - an inflow module or an outflow module, depending on whether the country is largely migrant-sending or migrant-receiving - to 176 central banks and other national institutions involved in remittances. 114 institutions responded.
These responses indicate that:
- There is a need for more frequent and better coordinated data collection across national institutions, among different divisions within the same national institution, and among countries.
- Countries should monitor (I mean, try to understand) new channels and technologies in monitoring remittance flows. Authorities should work closely with mobile phone operators to strike the right regulatory balance.
- The high cost of transfers was cited in the survey as the top factor inhibiting the use of formal channels.
- Many countries, particularly in Africa, have made progress in avoiding exclusivity contracts, which helps increase competitiveness and reduce transfer costs. But further policy reforms and initiatives are needed.
Paul Krugman’s September 6 article in the New York Times (How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?) is a humbling warning to the economics profession against the pitfalls of intellectual complacence. It challenges the profession to re-examine the validity of its existing knowledge particularly in relation to globalization and the workings of local and global financial markets.
Granted that economists have to face up to the unpalatable fact that our theoretical apparatus falls far short both as descriptions of how economies function and as prescriptions of how they can be made to function better. The crisis has exposed the limits of economic knowledge. According to Krugman: “The vision that emerge as the profession rethinks its foundations may not be all that clear; it certainly won’t be neat; but one can hope that it will have the virtue of being at least partly right.”
In this process of reappraising existing economic knowledge, there is a real risk of going overboard and wrong the right knowledge. Using the global economic crisis as an excuse, there are emerging tendencies to reject tested economic wisdoms in areas such as the role of foreign capital and trade policy in economic development.
One school of thought that is attempting to rise from the ashes is known as (old) Structural Economics.
This is the latest installment of the regional round-up and it has been a while. However, there has not been much groundbreaking news related to the financial crisis to report, with a few exceptions (more to come later).
Our good friend Amartya Sen checks-in recently with an essay in the New York Review of Books (March 26, which I am just getting to). Our good friend, because as a leading economist he is also a serious and long standing student of development challenges given his work on poverty, income distribution, famine, and so on. The occasion of this particular NYRB essay is the ongoing financial crisis. In it, he addresses recent calls for a “new economics,” as exemplified in the "New World, New Capitalism" symposium held in Paris in January, hosted by Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair. The idea, as Blair proposed, is to call for a new financial order based on “values other than the maximum short-term profit.”
We recently held a session on linking communities to markets during the Development Marketplace 2008 with about 40 finalists from all over the world. This was an excellent session and well received, but I realized one thing during the event: When you discuss how to link communities to markets, you’re assuming that the communities are mobilized, are actively participating in the project, and feel a sense of ownership. But how do you get to that point?
After seven years of fitful trade negotiations, the WTO’s Doha Round has collapsed, and the post mortems have already hit the newsstands. Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Keith Bradsher points to a new alliance between China and India, both pushing for so-called “safeguard” rules for agriculture, translating into uncapped tariffs on food imports from ri
BusinessWeek reports that an annual study by one of Europe's top business schools indicates that Asian economies are overtaking the U.S. and Northern Europe to become the most competitive in the world.
High food prices on the international markets are getting a lot of attention and are leading to different types of policy action in different countries. Discussions on the impact of international commodity prices on domestic prices often look at how much food countries import.