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Global Economy

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.

2008: Defining common goals through deliberation

Erdene-Ochir Badarch's picture

Continuing with our series looking at the 25 year partnership between Mongolia and the World Bank, today we look at 2008, a year that will be remembered by many Mongolians for events both high and low. The low point was the riot that followed parliamentary elections on 1st July, 2008. Five innocent lives were lost and Ulaanbaatar city was under a state emergency for two days and three nights. While Mongolia is rightfully praised for its peaceful transition from one regime to another in 1990, this incident of 2008 will be remembered as the darkest time in the 25 years of democracy.

The high of 2008 occurred after this riot when Mr. Tuvshinbayr Naidan brought home Mongolia’s 1st ever gold medal from the Beijing summer Olympics. I will never forget the sight of people waving our national flag, gathering in the Central Square and cheering with exhilaration.   The World Bank’s Country Director, David Dollar, also celebrated this historic occasion, noting that “The event was important enough to get rival political parties to shake hands and share the pride.”

Latin America: Is There Hope for Prosperity After the Commodity Price Boom?

Katia Vostroknutova's picture

This blog was previously published in The World Post.

Talk about ‘growth’ in Latin America has become less upbeat today than a few years ago. That’s no surprise. For over a decade, average growth meant at least double the economic activity that we are seeing today. 

Make in India: Which exports can drive the next wave of growth?

Saurabh Mishra's picture
Structural transformation depends not only on how much countries export but also on what they export and with whom they trade. In my new IMF working paper with Rahul Anand and Kalpana Kochhar, we break new grounds in analyzing India’s exports by the technological content, quality, sophistication, and complexity of India’s export basket. The paper can be found here. Here are few key pieces of evidence from our paper:
 
Technological content of India’s exports   

The evolution of Indian exports has not followed a “textbook” pattern. The pattern of evolution points to a dichotomy in the Indian economy – a well integrated, technologically advanced services sector and a relatively lagging manufacturing sector. The share of service exports in total exports has grown to over 32 percent in 2013 from 28 percent in 2000. On the other hand, the share of manufacturing exports in total export has declined to 67 percent from nearly 80 percent during 1990-2013.
 
The growth in service exports has been more rapid, resulting in the share of services exports in total exports to increase rapidly over the last decade. This can be explained by technological changes. Many services do not require face-to-face interaction, and can be stored and traded digitally. These services are called modern services. Modern services are the fastest growing sector of the global economy. This is particularly evident in India, where modern services exports account for nearly 70 percent of the total commercial services exports (compared to around 35 percent in EMs) (see Figure 1). 
      
Figure 1. Rapid Growth in Modern Services from India

Why regional integration is so important for resource-driven diversification in Africa

Gözde Isik's picture
Industrial area in Kitwe, Zambia / Photo: Arne Hoel


Natural resources management, particularly in the extractives industry, can make a meaningful contribution to a country’s economic growth when it leads to linkages to the broader economy. To maximize the economic benefits of extractives, the sector needs to broaden its use of non-mining goods and services and policymakers need to ensure that the sectors infrastructure needs are closely aligned with those of the country’s development plans.

In Africa, especially, mining and other companies that handle natural resources traditionally provide their own power, railways, roads, and services to run their operations. This “enclave” approach to infrastructure development is not always aligned with national infrastructure development plans.

A fresh look at the global financial crisis and poverty trends in the EU

Doerte Doemeland's picture


When development practitioners such as ourselves think of poverty, the EU is not what comes to mind first. While it is true that average incomes are higher in Europe than in most regions of the world, it is also true that the 2008 global financial crisis had a huge impact on the welfare of the most vulnerable in many countries in the region.

Malnutrition denies children opportunity and stunts economic development

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Nearly 50 years ago, books such as Asian Drama: An Inquiry Into The Poverty Of Nations, by the Swedish economist and Nobel laureate Gunnar Myrdal, offered a dire prediction of famine and poverty for the region in coming decades.

Bribery and limited access to banking are challenges for Afghan private firms

Arvind Jain's picture

The World Bank Group’s Enterprise Surveys benchmark the business environment based on actual experiences of firms. In a new blog series we kicked off last week, we’re sharing these findings from recently analyzed surveys conducted through extensive face-to-face interviews with managers and owners of firms in several countries.
 
In this post we focus on Afghanistan. We’ve conducted a survey with 410 firms across five regions and four business sectors—manufacturing, construction, retail, and services.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has noted that considerable political and security uncertainties have posed challenges for Afghanistan. Furthermore, the financial sector has been vulnerable with eight out of 15 banks classified as weak in late 2014. Within this context, the Afghanistan Enterprise Surveys (ES) shed light on several interesting findings:

Corruption is a challenge

According to the Afghanistan Enterprise Survey, firms face almost a 50 percent chance of having to pay a bribe if they applied for an electricity connection, tried to obtain permits, or met with government officials for tax purposes (“Bribery incidence”).  This is more than double of what private firms in landlocked developing countries experience on average.
 


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