The Western Balkans Case
The Western Balkans have a lot going for them: ideal location next to the world’s largest economic bloc, a well-educated workforce, relatively low wages and decent infrastructure. FDI and investors should be rushing in … but are they?
Southeast Europe is the next frontier of EU expansion and includes six countries: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. These countries have a lot in common and an equal amount of differences. They are all relatively small open economies, with a growth strategy premised on deeper international integration. Some, especially Macedonia, are more advanced in attracting international investors but as a whole, the region seems to be stuck in a classical Middle Income Trap: they are too rich to compete on low-cost manufacturing but are too poor to be global innovators. After a strong recovery following war and conflicts in the 1990s, the growth momentum has stalled over the last five years and the region has been particularly vulnerable to external shocks.
The Western Balkans Case
In 1991, Egypt launched the Economic Reform and Structural Transformation Program (ERSAP) to address dire economic conditions. The difficult financial situation forced the government to reschedule its public debt twice, in 1987 and 1991. The Egyptian reform program moved at a slow pace until 2003, when the government pushed for further liberalization of the economy. The government began by floating the rate of exchange of the Egyptian pound in 2003, followed by the implementation of a series of policies aiming at shifting Egypt from a centrally planned to a free market economy.
The successful WTO Ministerial at Bali has placed trade facilitation in the spotlight, but it is export promotion that takes pride of place in most national trade policy agendas. Sometimes export promotion seems a virtuous exercise, targeting small firms most in need of help. The US Government’s efforts through its Small Business Administration or under the National Export Initiative are an example. At other times, it seems cold-bloodedly pragmatic, geared towards large firms most able to use assistance. Examples are government support for national champions from Brazil to South Korea.
According to the World Bank report, "Women and Trade in Africa: Realizing the Potential", eliminating gender-specific barriers can help boost trade and increase productivity in Africa. Behind the research for this report were women who shared their personal stories of how they overcame gender discrimination at work in order to realize their potential.
Vietnam is one of the world's development success stories. It is undeniable.
Between 1990 and 2010, Vietnam grew at an average annual rate of 7.4 percent—one of the world’s top five growth performance records, anywhere, over the same 20-year period. In the process, the incidence of poverty has declined dramatically, from 58 percent in 1993 to about 10 percent today. Nowadays Vietnam is no longer considered a low-income country: it has attained lower-middle income status.
Yet this successful economic transition has also generated a number of challenges. Chief among them is that of sustaining economic growth going forward.
Governments (and donors alike) don’t like dealing with informality. It’s messy, dirty, essentially unmeasurable, and its character varies dramatically. From one industry to the next. From one city to the next. It’s also beset with fiendishly difficult problems – informal firms are often household enterprises (employing mainly family labour, and not hired labour). Thus, they have to make impossible trade-offs between production and consumption.
And yet – the size and the importance of the informal sector in most countries shows no signs of abating. On average the informal share of employment ranges from 24 per cent in transition economies, to 50 per cent in Latin America and over 70 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. In India, employment within the informal sector is growing, while that in the formal sector remains stagnant. Yet - very little is known about the relationship, whether symbiotic or competitive, between the two sectors.
In a new paper, I notice that in India formal firms tend to cluster with informal firms – especially in industries like apparel, furniture and meal-making. The firms coagglomerate not only so that they can buy from and sell to one another – but importantly, also because formal firms tend to share equipment with and transfer technical knowledge to their informal counterparts. Such technical and production spillovers are found in clusters of domestic-foreign, exporter-non-exporter and high-tech-low-tech firms. It is no surprise then that formal and informal activity could be complementary. Informal can also be an outlet for entrepreneurial activity, especially in places with high levels of corruption, or where formal firms are often mired in complex regulations.
If you follow trade negotiations, then you know there are few more contentious than those for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
On February 4, the World Bank’s International Trade Unit hosted Phil Levy, a senior fellow on the global economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, who has been following both negotiations closely. Levy spoke with World Bank staff about the potential implications for developing countries as negotiations move forward in what he calls “bargaining among behemoths.”
At this point in the negotiations, one thing is clear: there are still more questions than answers.
While some of you might be familiar with the term, transport logistics refers to the services, knowledge and infrastructure that allow for the free movement of goods and people.
In today’s globalized economies, logistics is recognized as a key driver of competitiveness and economic development. And as policy making turns its attention to promoting sustainable growth paths, valuing scarce resources, and minimizing environmental impacts, sustainable logistics is indeed a key nexus point.
Efficient logistics systems are a precondition for regions, countries, cities and businesses to participate in the global economy, boost growth, and improve the living conditions of millions of people.
That’s why this topic is so important for the World Bank’s mission and our client countries in the transport sector. And that’s why this week in The Hague we organized, together with the government of The Netherlands and partners like Dinalog, the Dutch Institute for Advanced Logistics, our first Conference on Sustainable Logistics.
- food security
- urban freight
- trade facilitation
- economic development
- shared prosperity
- inclusive growth
- sustainable growth
- green growth
- sustainable transport
- green logistics
- sustainable logistics
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
Editor's Note: "Notes From the Field" is an occasional feature where we let World Bank professionals conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank. All interviews have been edited for clarity.
The interview below was conducted with Violane Konar-Leacy, an Operations Officer in the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation. She works for the Investment Climate group, and is based in Belgrade, Serbia. Ms. Konar-Leacy is currently managing a trade logistics project in the Western Balkans. She spoke with us about her personal connection with the region, and how she embraces the challenges of working in a politically complex environment.