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Kaushik Basu's blog

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’. 

Global Economic Outlook in One Thousand Words

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[All numbers cited in this essay are from the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects. The analysis is mine.]

The economic prospect for the world in 2014 is best described as uneventful. It is a strange world we live in that this is the good news. After six years of turmoil marked by financial crises and long stretches of recession in several countries, it is indeed heartening that we are headed for uneventful times with a slow pick-up in global growth.

The world in 2013 grew by 2.4%. We are forecasting a growth of 3.2% in 2014. This is the point forecast. There is a lot that is happening around it, with some countries expected to make a strong recovery, some weak, and some actually slowing. And for each country there are bands of possibilities around their respective point forecasts.

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