|Adverse weather conditions are pushing some food commodity prices to levels not seen since the 2007/08 price spike. Nonetheless, weakening global demand has pushed down headline inflation in most regions.|
Important developments today:
1. European shares and euro continue to slump as Moody’s cuts the rating outlook for Germany, the Netherland, and Luxembourg
2. Output in the Euro Area contracts for the sixth month in July
Important developments today:
1. Crude oil prices fall from 9-week high
2. German producer price inflation falls to lowest in two years
In 2001, trade representatives from around the world first arrived in Doha, the capital of tiny Qatar, for the latest round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations. The goal was ambitious: work to reduce trade barriers, while ensuring that developing countries secure their fair share of global trade growth.
It is hard to talk about South Asia without invoking its demographics. The region will contribute nearly 40 percent of the growth in the world’s working age (15-64) population, and will need to add a staggering 1 to 1.2 million new entrants to the labor market every month for the next two decades. Absorbing the influx of youth into the labor force is one of South Asia’s core challenges. But while economists grapple with employment statistics and economic policy, jobs are created at the grassroots. Entrepreneurship is the spark that lights the fire, and the engine that generates opportunities in local communities.
As European leaders convened in Brussels to find solutions—yet again!—to the debt crisis in the Euro zone, Kenyans are witnessing the old continent’s woes with a mix of surprise and self-satisfaction.
If only Greece had managed its debt like Kenya, Europe would be in a much better shape today. Greece’s debt would be standing at 45 percent of GDP, less than a third of what it actually is. Recent global economic history would need to be rewritten and Europe’s sick nation would be a macroeconomic success, with the luxury of deciding how to spend its resources well, rather than scrambling to mobilize them.
Yesterday, I discussed India’s incredible economic transformation over the last two decades and some of the challenges that the country is currently facing. So, what can India do to reduce the impact of global uncertainty and improve growth performance and boost investor confidence?
India’s firepower to respond to a crisis with traditional monetary and fiscal stimulus is much weaker now than prior to the 2008 crisis. Fiscal space for additional spending is severely constrained in light of continued high deficits. Room for monetary policy easing is modest in light of continued high inflation, and still low real interest rates. Moreover, when investor confidence is at a low ebb as it is in India, easing monetary policy would be tantamount to “pushing on a string.”
India has been a beacon to the world on how a thriving and vibrant democracy can transform itself into an economic powerhouse. The metamorphosis that took place in the Indian economy after the reforms of the early 1990s is nothing short of spectacular. The Indian economy was transformed into a dynamo of innovation and diversification. This fundamental transformation unlocked two decades of explosive growth in which poverty rates fell by nearly 20 percent, exports as a share of GDP increased nearly five-fold, and standards of living increased by a factor of almost four. This trajectory received but a glancing blow from the 2008 global financial crisis—this resilience was a testimonial to the benefits of the economic reforms of the previous 15 years.
Challenges to India’s Growth
But now, India’s economy once again faces formidable challenges and the fear is that it is considerably less well placed to deal with these challenges than at any time over the past two decades. The global economy is facing a new phase of the crisis characterized by an extreme bout of uncertainty, risk aversion and volatility, this time originating in the Euro Area. Some skeptics have recently questioned: Will India weather this storm as well as it did in 2008-09 and will the story of “Incredible India” remain credible?
It is common to hear officials from countries and international agencies talk about the multiple challenges that impede intersectoral work for health. The concern is valid: while ministries of health and related institutions are organized and funded to improve the “health” of the population, other ministries do not have such a mandate. In most cases, this has led to a certain paralysis characterized by lofty aspirations in the health sector about the potential benefits of intersectoral action, but with little collaboration and action involving other sectors.
Photo: The scene at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the conference adopted the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Agenda 21 programme of action, among other actions. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras.
This week, the city of Rio de Janeiro will become a global stage, home to tens of thousands of people attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
Rio+ 20 is an important global stage upon which those committed to action from government, the private sector, and society can show how they plan to demonstrate that we can accelerate progress, if we change the way we grow.
We need a different kind of growth, a greener and more inclusive growth. We think it is affordable with help to those for whom upfront costs may be prohibitive. We think we should be able to value natural resources differently within our economic model. We think that with the right data and evidence we can avoid the irreversible costs of making wrong decisions now. And we can have economic systems that are much more efficient.
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Urban Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- Social Development
- Science and Technology Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Macroeconomics and Economic Growth
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Financial Sector
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Sustainable Development
- Natural Capital Accounting
Whenever we think of textile workers nowadays, we tend to think about cheap labor—particularly women sewing in overcrowded factories. In fact, the textile industry nurtures the narrative of how maquiladoras in the south have robbed manufacturing jobs from countries like the U.S., or how China has inundated the global market with cheap goods.
In development circles, people talk about “countries that are too big to fail and too small to succeed”. The jury may be out on the former but a new book by Shahid Yusuf and Kaoru Nabeshima, “Some Small Countries Do It Better” dispels the notion that countries can be too small to succeed.
Three small countries studied in the book - SIFIRE (SIngapore, FInland, IREland) – not only grew at high rates but were able to sustain them.
The book – which concludes with a section on implications for African countries – contends that growth recipes for SIFIRE were not tightly bound to the East Asian model of extremely high rates of savings and investment (although arguably, Singapore was in many ways the epitome of that model, thanks to its mandatory savings scheme which led to gross national savings in the neighborhood of 50 percent for decades).
The larger point is that these three countries augmented physical investment with healthy doses human capital and knowledge; by “opening their windows and letting it [knowledge in various forms, for example, that embodied in FDI] stream in”. And even though the book does not explicitly discuss it, they did so without massive infusions of foreign aid. Or perhaps it was the lack of aid that forced them to be nimble, agile, and forward-looking?
What precisely did SIFIRE get right?
Containers spend, on average, several weeks in ports in Africa. In fact, over 50% of total land transport time from port to hinterland cities in landlocked countries is spent in ports.
Our recent study demonstrates that, excluding Durban and Mombasa, average cargo dwell time in most ports in SSA is close to 20 days whereas it is close to 4 days in most large ports in East Asia or in Europe. In this setting, the main response has been to push for: (a) concession of terminal operators to the private sector, (b) investments in infrastructure (such as quays and container yards) and (c) investments in super-structures such as cranes and handling equipment.
What has been the result on cargo dwell time? Not much. On average, it is extremely difficult to reduce cargo dwell time. In Douala (Cameroon), for example, planners set an objective of 7 days at the end of the 1990s, but the dwell time remains over 18 days (despite real improvements for some shippers).
Recently, a friend from Indonesia visited me in Nairobi. He is one of the world’s leading experts on social development and a long-term Jakarta resident. One of his observations stuck in my mind: “Kenya is just like Indonesia ten years ago”, he said.
Comparing Kenya with Indonesia is counterintuitive—except perhaps when it comes to traffic jams—because of the many differences between the two countries. Indonesia is the world largest island state with more than 17.000 islands and a demographic heavyweight with 240 million people (six times more than Kenya). It is also 85 percent Muslim, while Kenya is about 85 percent Christian. Indonesia has massive natural resources – coal and gas (and some oil) – that it exports to other Asian countries, especially China, while Kenya’s economy is fuelled by a strong service sector.
There are many more reasons to challenge a comparison between these two countries but when one digs below the surface, there are also some similarities. Economically my friend was spot on: in GDP per capita terms, Kenya is roughly at the level of Indonesia a decade ago (about US$800 per capita). Today Indonesia is far ahead, but I don’t see any reason why Kenya couldn’t follow suit. Indeed, Indonesia is a good benchmark case for Kenya because it was never a “star reformer”, but instead a consistently strong performer.
On June 5, the World Bank will host an event focused on the ongoing relationship between Brazil and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The event will be web streamed. Panelists will discuss Brazil’s experiences in the areas of agriculture, social protection and vocational training, and ways in which African countries can benefit.
Ahead of the event, we’re seeking your questions and comments. Please read the recently launched report Bridging the Atlantic: Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa Partnering for Growth. The report highlights these key points: