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May 2010

Re-thinking Trade Policy

Ravindra A. Yatawara's picture

Trade theory has always been lagging behind reality. From Ricardo ‘s (1817) explanation of trade based on relative productivity/technology differences among nations, it took over a century for Eli Heckscher and Bertil Ohlin (1933) to formalize a model that would explain inter- industry trade patterns based on a countries ’natural resources or factor endowments.

A Primer on Export Diversification: Key Concepts, Theoretical Underpinnings & Empirical Evidence

Salomon Samen's picture

This new paper provides a basic understanding of: (i) the concepts of Export Development and Export Diversification, (ii) what the theory says about Export Development and Diversification? and (iii) what empirical evidence shows on the links (correlates) between export diversification, exports growth, and overall growth.

The Role of Cultural Heritage in Poverty Reduction

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

We economists tend to see well-being, and poverty in particular, as a matter of finances and income. But fortunately, at least in the Bank, we have come a long way from that simplistic view. Reducing poverty is not only about increasing productivity and income. It is about enabling people to have a broad sense of well-being and opportunities to express and make choices about their lives.

As the famous Bank series “Voices of the Poor” and the follow up “Moving Out of Poverty” have shown us, poverty is much more than lacking a steady or sufficient source of income. Being poor is being vulnerable: to crime and violence, to the lack of justice and access to services. Being poor means inability to negotiate, bargain, and get paid. Poverty, in a nutshell, is a kind of decline in social connectedness. So that’s why social solidarity and cultural identity are so relevant to poverty reduction.

One aspect of cultural identity is cultural heritage, an issue that was widely discussed at the 13th Annual International Symposium: Economic Benefits, Social Opportunities, and Challenges of Supporting Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Development, held May 20 – 22 at Word Bank headquarters in Washington DC. The conference, organized jointly with the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, explored fascinating topics –from the contribution of cultural heritage to the development of sustainable communities, to the looting and illicit traffic of cultural treasures.

What Drives Productivity

Raj Nallari's picture

Productivity is the efficiency in converting inputs to outputs. It is also called TFP (total factor productivity) and measured as a residual – the difference between outputs and a set of inputs (e.g. labor, capital, and intermediate goods, including energy, land and buildings). Measurement problems plague both inputs (e.g. how do you account for quality of labor or capital) and outputs.

To wit, managers with MBAs, flexibility in labor and capital markets, fuel efficiency, relatively higher spending in IT (computers) and R&D, and policies that promote market competition, trade liberalization, deregulation of energy, and encouragement of foreign direct investment that brings in technical progress and leads to learning (catch-up) is shown to contribute to higher productivity. Exporting firms tend to have higher productivity. Inefficient firms can still survive in stable industries where technology is static, and where market competition is limited by a variety of local factors and relationships (e.g. China where the protection is afforded by local governments).

Internal Ventures of the Post-Washington Consensus: “Only Connect”

Yevgeny Kuznetsov's picture

The post-Washington Consensus has emerged recently as an umbrella denoting the search for pragmatic and context-specific solutions to problems of developing countries. The recent financial crisis, with its epicenter in the rich economies, has demonstrated that the whole world, not just poor countries, is developing. One feature of the new pragmatism is that industrial policy is back. But in contrast to import substitution, it is an open economy industrial policy – the objective is to increase economic openness: enhance flows of knowledge, foster productive innovation, and promote non-traditional exports. Under rubrics such as productive development policies or innovation strategies, governments in developing countries are providing public inputs, each customized and bundled to suit the needs of particular domains of economic activity, but not others.

How are we responding? One way to understand the World Bank’s role in articulating the post-Washington consensus is to imagine a pyramid. At the top are the ‘thinkers’ of DEC, the Bank’s research and data arm. There are encouraging discussions on new structural economics (Justin Lin), empirical work on new trade theory, and – as one would expect – a new open industrial policy. At the foundation are task managers of lending operations. By being responsive to the needs of the client, but without much fanfare, they are in the forefront of the post-Washington consensus in their dialogue with our most sophisticated and demanding clients such as India, China, Argentina, Mexico, Russia, Malaysia or Chile. A new generation of lending technology and innovation operations is quietly emerging which emphasizes selectivity and focus on a few domains and sectors of the economy deemed strategic rather than the across-the-board focus on innovation climate. Practitioners take the need to make ‘’strategic bets” for granted (‘’the entry costs are high, technology is changing rapidly, one can’t do everything, we need to be selective”), so the issue here is to design private-public institutions to share risks and minimize state capture. New institutions of open industrial policy are being self-discovered on a daily basis, yet there is too little contact between the new theory (‘thinkers’) and cutting edge practice (‘doers’).

Export Development, Diversification, and Competitiveness: How Some Developing Countries Got It Right

Salomon Samen's picture

A Paper for Discussion

In recent decades, export competitiveness in a changed and increasingly changing world has been at the heart of growth and development debates in almost all countries. Drawing upon the lessons of experience of the most successful exporters in the developing world1, this paper provides an overview of institutions and policy practices successfully experienced for the expansion and diversification of exports, and the strengthening of industrial competitiveness in some developing countries.

Although exports are important for growth and development, developing countries have been struggling with the challenge of expanding and diversifying their export baskets beyond their primary product bases for a long time. Based on research in recent two decades, it is now well established that, openness to trade and integration into global markets is a central element of successful growth strategies; and higher and sustained economic growth is associated with export growth (Dollar and Kraay (2001).

Against the background of growing disparity in income between the developed and the developing world due in large part to divergence in industrial competitiveness, the central question has always been: what can and should be done in developing countries to boost their export growth, accelerate their export diversification and enhance their competitiveness in international markets? While there is considerable agreement on some of the policy lessons learned from successful exporters of the developing world (need for sound macroeconomic management, appropriate exchange rate and general encouragement to exporters), there is more controversy on the role and usefulness of some other policies and particularly on selective policies targeted to specific activities. However, a look at the experience of the most successful exporters of the developing world that were able to reverse more than a hundred years of sluggish development and achieve unprecedented manufacturing performance, suggests that they may have done something right.