As Malaysia redefines its growth strategy, the question of which sector to promote has been a subject of ongoing debate. Some have argued that the strategy should emphasize manufacturing – and preferably high-tech manufacturing – as innovation activity is most forthcoming in this sector. Others have countered that services are key, as the typical economic structure of an advanced economy is oriented towards services. Tradable services are also fast becoming an engine of growth.
The President of Mongolia, Elbegdorj Tsakhia, sat at the table behind a Greek salad. We were at a lunch hosted by the Corporate Governance Development Center, an NGO which brings international best practices in corporate governance to Mongolia. Also present were the Minister of Education, the Director of the Financial Regulatory Commission (FRC), the Deputy Chief of Party of the USAID-funded Economic Policy Reform and Competitiveness Project (EPRC), which helped to establish the Center with the Institute of Finance and Economics, and CEOs of leading Mongolian firms. Several International Finanace Corporation (IFC) clients were among them.
The salad looked delicious, but it would have to wait. President Elbegdorj was speaking about the role of corporate governance in Mongolia. "Corporate governance is important for Mongolia's competitiveness," he said. I was delighted. I've been waiting a long time for this moment.
(Blog Admin note: please be aware that Gao Xu is no longer working for the World Bank and cannot follow up on new questions or comments on his posts.)
The prediction season is in full swing, and prognosticators have, as usual, appended the warning that economic forecasts at this stage are subject to exceptional uncertainty. Such exceptional uncertainty is always with us when looking ahead – there is always a fork in the road, no matter what the circumstances are.
The nuance this year is that, while the recovery in East Asia will depend on prospects for the rest of the world, notably in the advanced economies, the outlook for those economies hinges on policies to address the causes of the financial crisis. Thus far, it’s clear that very little has been done to redress the regulatory issues that led to a near meltdown of the global financial system – while the rebound from the financial and economic crisis has been substantially stronger than anticipated only months earlier. And these developments explain why opinions differ on the future path of regulatory reforms and their impacts.
This morning, my kids stood waiting for the school bus, crying. The bus was late, and they had been outside for about three minutes. No wonder. The temperature outside was -39 degrees Celsius. I thought we had bundled them up enough; they had so many layers on that they looked like astronauts. But they were still freezing.
This winter is especially cold. It's in the 30 degrees below zero every day, and has dipped below -40°C. In some parts of Mongolia, it has fallen below -50°C. There is frost on the windows of our office.
We’ve written before about a climate-related effort in developing countries known as REDD – or Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation. So one of the outcomes during last month’s U.N. climate conference that I found particularly interesting was an announcement from Google.org. During the conference in Copenhagen, the search giant's philanthropic arm introduced the prototype for an online application that will allow monitoring of forests around the planet.
Apparently, some believed that the overall topic of REDD may have been one of the few bright spots during the two-week conference. To me, it seems like this forthcoming online monitoring tool is no exception – particularly because Google products are often innovative, easy to use and reliable.
The announcement generated quite bit of media buzz, and Google.org’s press release has a nice explanation of why the online application, likely available to the public some time this year, might be so significant:
Traditional forest monitoring is complex and expensive, requiring access to large amounts of satellite data, lots of hard drives to hold the data, lots of computers to process the data, and lots of time while you wait for various computations to finish. … Google supplies data, storage, and computing muscle. As a result, you can visualize forest change in fractions of a second over the web, instead of the minutes or hours that traditional offline systems require for such analysis.