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Should Government Give Money to Tanzania’s Poor?

Jacques Morisset's picture

Men tilling a rice paddie on an irrigation project When confronted with financial distress or some other difficulty, over 80 percent of Tanzanian families say they count on relatives and friends for the support needed to get through it. This is to be expected in African culture which is shaped by a strong sense of affinity with family and tribal ties. 

However, in a poll conducted by the World Bank and Twaweza by phone in November, almost half of Tanzanian households also expressed that they expect to receive some help from their Government (see details in the fourth Tanzania Economic Update). In a world characterized by rapid urbanization and structural changes, government assistance is increasingly viewed as critical. In cities, especially, traditional ties and safety nets are generally losing their force. With economic progress, income disparities tend to widen. For example, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty (i.e. with barely enough resources to afford a 2,000 calorie diet) is only one percent in Dar es Salaam but over 15 percent in most rural areas.

A Tale of Two Impacts: Minimum Wage Outcomes in South Africa

Haroon Bhorat's picture

Worker pruning fruit trees Economist and Nobel Prize laureate James M. Buchanan remarked to the Wall Street Journal in 1996 that "Just as no physicist would claim that "water runs uphill”, no self-respecting economist would claim that increases in the minimum wage increase employment."  Of course this statement remains broadly true today, but the advent of better data, improved statistal techniques and the proliferation of country studies – have made economists far more careful about pre-judging the impact of minimum wages on employment and wages.  Indeed, in a now famous study of fast food restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, David Card and Alan Krueger showed how the imposition of a minimum wage had no significant disemployment effects, and in some cases increased employment, arising out of a large enough increase in demand for the firms’ products.
 
The evidence for South Africa, some twenty years after the demise of apartheid, is equally compelling.  In a two-part study, my co-authors and I find an intriguing set of contrasting economic outcomes, from the imposition of a series of sectoral minimum wage laws.  In South Africa, the minimum wage setting body, known as the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC), advises the Minister of Labour on appropriate and feasible minimum wages for different sectors or sub-sectors in the economy.  Currently, the economy has in place 11 such sectoral minimum wage laws in sectors ranging from Agriculture and Domestic Work, to Retail and Private Security.

The Need for “Staying Power”: Russian Firms in Times of Economic Volatility

Alvaro Gonzalez's picture

In a recent blog, our colleague Birgit Hansl adds her voice to the chorus of economists warning us of Russia’s coming deceleration.  If she is right, this is especially bad news for Russia. If the recent past is an indicator of what may happen; this looming slump will have dramatic effects on the structure of the economy. 

A slowdown in Russia means a wiping out of gains made during booms.  Russia’s economy has experienced several booms and busts in the recent past.  We found that  young firms, even if they are efficient, were more likely to die off during a slump.  Not so for incumbents.  They had staying power independent of their relative efficiency.  So much for the new blood that the economy needs to diversify!

Russia's economy is concentrated and dependent on the extraction of natural resources. Recent trends are not promising. Growth in Russia has been limited to a few sectors and to a few firms. Russia is much less diversified today than it was during the Soviet Era, both within and across sectors. The bottom quartile of the manufacturing sector, ranked by operating revenue, contributes 0.6 percent of total manufacturing output while the top quartile contributes 80 percent. In addition, the average share of output for the bottom quartile of firms (in terms of operating revenue) in a manufacturing sector is 0.06 percent while the share of the top quartile is 94.7 percent.

Migration as Structural Transformation

Shanta Devarajan's picture
IN024S05 World Bank When a poor person moves from a low-productivity job to a higher-productivity one, we usually celebrate.  The worker is clearly better off; the hiring firm is no worse off; and it’s good for the economy as a whole.  Indeed, development is often described as the process of structural transformation, where low-productivity workers (typically in agriculture) move to higher-productivity jobs in manufacturing or services. 

But when that same worker happens to cross a national border, we call it “migration” and, instead of celebrating, we start investigating the effects on workers, firms and public finances in the new environment; and on those left behind (the so-called “brain drain”).  Instead of promoting structural transformation, we look for policies to manage it.

الحوار المفقود: كيف يمكن بناء رأسمالية أخلاقية في العالم العربي

Ishac Diwan's picture
Also available in: English

A young Egyptian holding a flag  تتصدى دول التحول العربي التي تضم تونس ومصر واليمن وليبيا حاليا لقضايا معقدة تتعلق بالقيم الفردية، ومدى حرية التعبير، والحقوق الشخصية، والأمور العائلية التي تدور جميعا حول القضايا الجوهرية المتمثلة في الهوية والأدوار التي يلعبها الفرد والدولة والمجتمع. وهذه الحوارات الاجتماعية بناءة من حيث إنها تعكس ثراء الرؤى وتعددها في مجتمعات كانت مسايرة الموجة هي السمة السائدة في كنف النظم الديكتاتورية. لكن للأسف، تؤدي هذه الحوارات إلى الاستقطاب في المجتمع بما يؤدي إلى العنف والتهديد بالفوضى واحتمال العودة إلى الاستبداد. في الحقيقة، يعكس الاستقطاب الاجتماعي الحالي إلى حد بعيد محاولات السياسيين استغلال الانقسامات الاجتماعية، بل وتأجيجها، بطريقة تذكي حماس أنصارهم المحتملين لملء الفراغ السياسي الذي نجم عن رحيل طغاة العصر. وتختلف حالات الحراك التي يشهدها المغرب والأردن والجزائر ولبنان بعض الشيء، إلا أنه في هذه الحالة أيضا يؤدي التركيز المكثف والاستثنائي على الهوية إلى تزاحم التحديات الاجتماعية والاقتصادية بطريقة أكثر أهمية وأكثر سرعة.
 

The Missing Conversation: How to Build a Moral Capitalism in the Arab Region

Ishac Diwan's picture
Also available in: العربية

A young Egyptian holding a flag The Arab transition countries, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, are grappling with complex issues relating to personal values, the extent of freedom of speech, individual rights,  family matters, that all orbit around deep issues of identity and the respective roles of the individual, the state and society. These social conversations are constructive in that they reflect a rich pluralism of views in societies where conformity was the rule under dictatorship. But unfortunately, these dialogues are polarizing society, leading to violence and threatening chaos and a possible return to authoritarianism. In fact, the current social polarization to a large extent reflects attempts by political entrepreneurs to use existing social fault lines, and even exacerbate them, in ways that mobilize passions among possible supporters, driven to over-reach by the political vacuum created by the departure of the historical autocrats. The dynamics in Morocco, Jordan, Algeria, and Lebanon are slightly different, but here too, the intense and exclusive focus on identity is crowding out more important and immediate social and economic challenges.

The Economist and Lancet Views on Bangladesh: What’s Missing?

Hassan Zaman's picture

Women in rural villageAbout a year back the Economist had an editorial piece titled "Out of the basket" and subtitled “Lessons from the achievements – yes, really, achievements – of Bangladesh.” The more in-depth piece that followed appeared somewhat bemused at how a country once labeled a ‘test case for development’ could have made such striking gains in development outcomes over the past two decades (see table 1). These gains were hard to reconcile amidst Bangladesh’s natural and Rana Plaza-type disasters, volatile politics and unfavorable rankings on governance indicators – themes which the Economist has often covered before, and after, this “achievements” piece.

This past week the Lancet has come out with a special issue on Bangladesh which the journal editors say is in order to “investigate one of the great mysteries of global health.” Specifically the published papers are meant to explore how “Bangladesh has made enormous health advances and now has the longest life expectancy, lowest fertility rate and lowest infant and under-5 mortality rates in South Asia despite spending less on health care than several neighbouring countries.” Both these publications help explain the various ‘Bangladesh paradoxes’ but they also overlook, or underplay, a few critical factors.

Should Policy Makers in Emerging Markets be Concerned about “Tapering”?

Mathew Verghis's picture

 

City and traffic lights at sunset in JakartaThe US and European economies are showing some signs of recovery from the global financial crisis that began in 2008. As a result, the US Federal Reserve Bank is considering phasing out, or “tapering”, the extraordinary monetary policy measures through which it responded to the crisis. On May 22, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress that the Fed may begin to reduce the size of its bond buying program. There was an immediate withdrawal by investors from stocks and bonds in emerging markets. The World Bank's East Asia and Pacific regional update estimated that in East Asia alone $24 billion was withdrawn from equities and $35.2 billion from bonds. Share prices fell by 24 percent in Indonesia, 21 percent in Thailand, and 20 percent in the Philippines. Yields on 10 year local currency bonds increased by 273 basis points in Indonesia, 86 basis points in Thailand and 76 basis points in Malaysia. The exchange rate depreciated by 18 percent in Indonesia, and about 5 percent in the Philippines and Thailand. Financial markets largely recovered once the Fed decided to postpone tapering in September, but there is still nervousness. The Indonesian Rupiah and Indian Rupee both fell significantly in November, till Fed Chair nominee Janet Yellen signaled that she saw a continued need for the bond buying program.

At some point the Fed will indeed begin to taper. Investors should clearly be concerned as there is a risk of sudden and dramatic falls in asset prices. Should policy makers be concerned? Will there be an impact on growth, inflation or macroeconomic risk that requires a response from policy makers?
 

中国的三中全会:会带来诸多改变——对其他发展中经济体而言亦是如此

Manu Bhaskaran's picture
Also available in: English

CN142S09 World Bank 一些观察人士提醒人们三中全会后中国共产党提出的各项改革可能因为既得利益方的阻力或缺乏政治意愿而落空。而我认为这会给中国带来根本性变化,只因为一个简单的理由——政治。首先,中共领导层完全明白该党已经因为越来越严重的腐败问题和裙带之风、越来越招人怨恨的收入不均、对食品安全的巨大怀疑以及日益恶化的污染而丧失了人民的信任。第二,他们认识到现有的经济模式不能持续地提供足以换取民众对党的拥护的经济进步。中国共产党的领导者们知道需要对当下的经济模式作出根本性改变才能重新赢得人民的信任。正因为要生存下去就要进行重大变革,因此,中共领导层将全力以赴。
 
但是有没有进行改革的政治能力呢?且来看看习近平主席是如何亲自掌控监督经济改革的机制的。习近平将领导负责“全面深化改革”的小组,这个小组将具体实施规划的各项改革。此外,他还设立了一个将由他领导的“国家安全委员会”。原中国领导人江泽民曾试图设立这样一个国家安全委员会,但未能成功。显然,习近平的同事们准备给予他推进改革所需的政治权威,而即便是江泽民这样有影响力的人也缺乏这种权威。有了他个人的权威作为这些改革的后盾,习近平不太可能妥协或退让。
 
最开始变革将分阶段谨慎地展开,但累积起来后会在2020年前改变中国的经济格局。在经济领域内,市场力量将被赋予更大的影响力,国有企业将被迫按照更商业化的方式运作,私营部门将被给予更大的活动空间。农村土地市场将建立起来,同时对农村移民在城市地区生活的限制也将分阶段取消。中央、省和地方政府之间的关系将有所改变,后两级权力部门将能更公平地分享到税收收入,从而与它们承担的责任更一致。金融改革将消除诸如对储户的不公平待遇等诸多扭曲问题。如果一切都能按计划进行,中国将变成一个更高效的经济体,拥有比现在更具活力的私营部门,出现从能在环境和收入分配方面产生更好结果这个意义上来说质量更高的增长。
 
其他发展中国家应该留心中国发生的变化。如果中国能咬紧牙关,作出维持经济发展所需要的痛苦改变,其他大的发展中经济体——比如印度和印度尼西亚——为什么就不能同样做到呢?
 

China’s Third Plenum: Much will Change - for Other Developing Economies Too

Manu Bhaskaran's picture
Also available in: 中文

CN142S09 World Bank Some observers caution that the reforms proposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after the Third Plenary meeting of its Central Committee may fall short of promise because of resistance from vested interests or a lack of political will. My view is that it will bring about fundamental changes in China for one simple reason - politics. First, the CCP leadership fully understands that the party has lost the trust of the people because of rising corruption and cronyism, increasingly offensive income inequality, huge question marks over food safety, and worsening pollution. Second, they realize that the current economic model cannot sustainably deliver the economic progress that citizens expect in return for their allegiance to the CCP. The CCP leaders know that fundamental changes are needed to this economic model to regain the trust of the people. Since survival demands big changes, the leadership will pull out all the stops.

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