This week four new policy research working papers were published covering performance of skilled migrants in US, induced participatory projects, Vietnam’s hospital autonomization policy, and worldwide indicators on localization and decentralization.
With a data revolution upon us and as we strive to keep up in this new age of participation, what counts matters and is acted upon. If advertisers can mine our online behavior, how we use our phones and where we spend to influence our consumer choices, then surely we can design smart social programs based on gender-disaggregated data that will narrow the gaps between men and women in social and economic life, right? These and other questions were posed at an event today on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap."
What was inspiring was that two heavy-hitters – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – spoke eloquently about the power of data to maximize results and shape policies, whether in terms of higher productivity on farms in Africa, better social safety net programs in Peru, or more effective peace and reconciliation initiatives in post conflict countries.
Some of the fastest-growing countries in Asia and the oil-rich Gulf states have the most restrictive policies in the services trade, while some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Rwanda and Senegal, are remarkably open in the area. These patterns emerge from a new Services Trade Restrictions Database created by staff in the Trade and International Integration Team of the Development Economics Research Group.
Across sectors, transportation and professional services, such as accounting and law, are among the most protected in developed and developing countries alike. Meanwhile, retail, telecommunications and finance, such as banking and insurance, tend to be more open.
The ongoing turmoil in Europe with the euro and sluggish global economic recovery has important implications for growth and trade in developing countries. A World Bank report released recently suggests that as a result of instability in advanced economies, developing country growth will slow to a relatively weak 5.3 percent in 2012. In a speech recently, WTO Secretary General Pascal Lamy described the rise in trade protection as alarming. Restrictive measures put in place since the global economic crisis in 2008 amounts to 3% of world merchandise trade, and almost 4% of G-20 trade. They have remained unabated over the past seven months.
Given economic slowdown in developing countries and an increase in restrictions on trade, what policy steps can the global community take to ensure trade remains a source of jobs and growth?
As emergency meetings of Heads of State to address the Euro zone crisis have seemingly become recurrent events, the crisis in the Euro zone lingers on stubbornly and might possibly become more serious with borrowing costs for Italy and Spain, reaching unsustainably high levels. As ever bolder proposals proliferate to put an end to the crisis, it is important to look back at the history of the crisis and try to identify its root causes. A working paper by Justin Lin and myself addresses this question and, in particular, the extent to which it was driven by the global financial crisis and by factors internal to Europe, notably the adoption of the common currency.
Attention to the issues of relative poverty and inequality is intensifying amidst today's fragile global economy. While pre-crisis economic growth generally reduced the incidence of absolute poverty, concerns remain about relative deprivation and social exclusion, which don't necessarily decline just because someone moves out of extreme poverty. Given this, it may be time to devise a reasonable global measure of relative poverty, alongside prevailing absolute measures.
Martin Ravallion elucidated on this during a July 10 lecture at Sydney's UTS Business School, titled "A Fresh Look at Poverty: More Relatively-Poor People in a Less Absolutely-Poor World".
Does what economies export matter for development? And, even if it does, can governments improve on the export basket that the market generates through industrial policy? These questions were the topics at the recent launching of Does What you Export Matter: In Search of Empirical Guidelines for Industrial Policy a book I co-authored with Daniel Lederman at the World Bank’s INFOSHOP last week.
A large literature has answered affirmatively to the first question. Certainly, theory suggests that certain goods may have externalities (benefits to society not captured by their price) that may make it possible for governments to improve on the market outcome. But to date, measuring such effects at the level of goods has proven extremely difficult and the economics profession has yet to produce a handbook that would tell policy makers which sectors are most desirable. Instead, we’ve developed some empirical shortcuts or rules of thumb based on characteristics that are thought to be correlated with these externalities. Some schools of thought are best known by their colorful metaphors: natural resources are a “curse”; “high tech” goods promote high levels of human capital and the “knowledge economy;” a “product space” made up of “trees” (goods) from which “monkeys” (entrepreneurs) can more easily jump to other trees fosters growth, to give just three examples.
The book made two broad points.
Work is central to people’s lives and identity. For many, participating in the labor market is important beyond its obvious economic rewards as it also provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Conversely, labor deprivation impedes economic growth and leads to a feeling of emptiness and exclusion.
Yet, it is not uncommon to see large differences in attitudes towards employment across social groups. Urban residents, for example, are typically louder in voicing their labor market complaints than rural residents, even though living conditions in rural areas are known to be worse.
This week, amidst fireworks and stultifying Washington heat, five Policy Research Working Papers were published. They cover weakly relative poverty measures, PPPs in electricity generation, carbon emissions, universal health care, financial literacy, and economic analysis of projects in a greenhouse world.