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Kaushik Basu's blog

India, China and our growth forecasts

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Last month, the World Bank and IMF both put out predictions that, this year, India would overtake China in terms of GDP growth rate. This caused a flutter and was widely reported around the world. How robust is this prediction and what does it really mean?

First, this is not as monumental a milestone as some commentators made it out to be. China has had one of the most remarkable growth runs witnessed in human history, having exceeded an annual growth of 9% from 1980 to now. Four decades ago its per capita income was close to India’s, but now it is four times as large as India’s. None of all this is going to change in a hurry.

With this caveat in mind, it is a year in which India deserves to feel good. It is expected to top the World Bank’s chart of growth rates in major nations of the world. This has never happened before. Before 1990, India did occasionally grow faster than China, mainly because China’s growth gyrated wildly during the pre-Deng Xiaoping period. It was, for instance, minus 27% in 1961, when Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the world’s biggest famine, and it was 17% and 19% in 1969 and 1970, respectively--a relief in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. Fluctuations of this magnitude would be intolerable to India’s polity.

Human behavior, social norms, law and other big questions

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‘Development Economics: The Big Questions’ was the topic of a lecture I delivered April 7 at Georgetown University. During my talk, I touched on micro-theoretic issues related to Mind, Society, and Behavior (the topic of the WDR 2015) and as well as on governance and the law (the topic of the WDR 2017, which is in its very early stages).  From assumptions about rational actors, to the role of social norms, as well as lessons from game theory, I attempted to shed a rather different light on human foibles and the challenges of development than is typically expected from the World Bank. 

Women are still pushing a boulder uphill, but progress is real

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Most women today still get the short end of the economic stick - by virtually every measure available to us, women are more constrained and economically excluded than men.
Globally, men are nearly twice as likely as women to hold full-time jobs. On average, women earn between 10 and 30 percent less than working men, while they spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work, such as caring for family members and doing housework.

Oil Price Plunge holds promise and peril

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An understanding of the long- and short-term factors that were behind the recent plunge in oil prices is essential for all with an interest in economic policy, given that we still live in the age of oil.

Today my team has published a paper that looks into how the rapid expansion of oil supply from unconventional sources, OPEC’s change of strategy, and weak global demand drove the decline in oil prices.

How the Business Community Can Help Fight Corruption

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This blog appeared originally in The Times of India

The control of corruption is commonly treated as the responsibility of government. The presumption is that people, firms and corporations will be what they are. So if corruption flourishes in a country, it reflects a failure of government. In informal discussions in the bazaar and angry public forums, the demands are invariably for greater honesty among government servants, tougher laws, and better enforcement. The public outrage against corruption is understandable for corruption is among the biggest obstacles to economic development. At the same time, the solutions offered in popular discourses are often naïve. 

Bhutan – Development Economics in the Himalayas

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Landing at Paro in Bhutan involves making a question-mark shaped maneuver while dropping altitude rapidly to avoid making wing-contact with the Himalayan mountains surrounding the Paro valley where Thimphu, the capital, is also situated. A fellow passenger informs me that there are only 9 pilots in the world who are trained to make this landing. I use up one of my rare prayers to request that it be one of those flying us now. It is, I think, the infrequency of prayers that makes them so effective; our plane descends smoothly and tiptoes on to the tarmac.

Development Economics and Method: A Quarter Century of ABCDE

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[Opening Remarks at the ABCDE 2014, Washington, D.C.]

Introduction

It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) 2014.

The first time I attended an ABCDE was when Stanley Fischer used to do my job. A letter arrived, quite unexpectedly, in my Delhi mailbox inviting me to attend the ABCDE in Washington. The World Bank would cover all my expenses and, not just that, I was not given any specific task, like that of writing a paper or commenting on one. Several members of the eminences grises of the profession were at the conference and I remember feeling rather tongue tied. So, taking advantage of the fact that I did not have a specific brief, I hardly spoke during the two days. I later figured that if you measured the World Bank’s expenditure on different participants in terms of the amount spent for each word uttered, I was the most highly-paid person at that conference.

I made up for that a little in 1992, when Larry Summers was the Chief Economist, and I was invited once again from Delhi, this time to comment on Paul Romer’s paper (Romer, 1993). And I will make up for this today, since the Bank did not have to spend on my travel and I do intend to say a few things.

Too Small to Regulate – A Blog

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Informal industries and markets, with many small producers and suppliers, are generally more difficult to regulate than their organized counterparts, dominated by larger corporations. 

Adulteration of food, for instance, is more common in small, informal outlets than when sold by large, branded firms. It was part of the lore in South Asia that milk bought from small, informal cattle owners would be adulterated with water (which on charitable days may be viewed as traditional technology for converting 4%-fat milk to 2%). A recent study in Barisal District of Bangladesh  found that while small percentages of milk samples had different kinds of adulteration, when it came to added water, 100% of the samples had it. 

Playing with and Understanding Purchasing Power Parities

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A fascinating feature of purchasing power parity (PPP) is more people hold an opinion on it than know what it means. This was in ample display last week, when the Global Office of the International Comparison Program (ICP), hosted by the World Bank, announced the latest PPP data for the world, pertaining to 2011. 

Putting aside complexities, PPPs may be viewed as an estimate what one US dollar can buy in different countries. In case a dollar in Ghana can buy three times what it can buy in the United States, then a person who earns 1,000 dollars each month in Ghana is said to earn 3,000 in terms of ‘PPP-adjusted dollars’. 

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