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Competitiveness: Winning Papers for Next Week’s Conference – MENA, China-India . . . and Hard Drives

Ivan Rossignol's picture

We’re now a week away from the Competitive Industries conference on “Making Growth Happen” on October 16 and 17. With more than 20 high-level speakers – including our keynoters Joseph Stiglitz and Don Graves, and with more than 500 internal and external participants already registered – the conference seems poised to be a landmark event.

Through this conference, we aim to start a discussion on a controversial topic in a non-controversial way.  Prominent academics, from Stiglitz to Dani Rodrik, have explained that the world is turning massively to industrial policy pushes.  The U.S. government, through Graves’ work at the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, is demonstrating that this movement is also affecting the countries that have the strongest reputation for non-interventionist economic policies.  Nevertheless, these approaches are complex and difficult to implement, and they run the risk of allowing rent-seeking behavior and economic distortions without social returns.

We therefore also wanted to hear from other economists, and we launched a call for papers, asking for new ideas and research on the theme of the conference: the “how to” of growth and jobs. We wanted to focus attention on possible lessons that could have immediate policy implications in our country work.

The Selection Committee for these papers was composed of Vijaya Ramachandran of the Center for Global Development (CGD); Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank Group’s Chief Economist for MENA; Mary C. Hallward-Driemeier, the Lead Economist in DEC; Martin Rama, the Chief Economist for South Asia; and myself. We are pleased to announce that the winning papers are:

 


This is a diverse set of papers, ranging from rigorous studies of individual policies to new frameworks for thinking about policymaking.

Joseph Stiglitz: 'Creating a Learning Society,' and the Implications for Industrial Policy

Ivan Rossignol's picture



The first World Bank Competitive Industries conference on “Making Growth Happen” is just two weeks away. There’s been a thrilling addition to the impressive roster of speakers: A Nobel Prize-winning economist, Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, has agreed to deliver one of the keynote addresses on Wednesday, October 16. 

What makes this particularly exciting is that Stiglitz – a former Chief Economist of the World Bank – will talk to us not only about his prior work, but will be giving us a taste of what’s coming next. His forthcoming book, co-authored with Bruce Greenwald, “Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress," promises to hold a wide range of policy implications.

In anticipation of the talk, and judging by his analyses on his website, I thought I’d share some of my reflections on this theme in Stiglitz’s work and on its relevance for us – as well as some questions that I hope we will tackle during the conference.

Sparking Innovation in Post-Conflict Nations

Kalyah Ford's picture



Conflict and post-conflict countries traumatized by years of instability are not commonly thought of as a source for entrepreneurial talent. Nonetheless, even under the most difficult circumstances, incredible entrepreneurial and innovative talent can and does surface.

According to the World Bank’s Fragile and Conflict Situations unit, one in four people in the world – more than 1.5 billion – live in fragile and conflict-affected situations. These are countries that are often rife with socio-political instability and large-scale organized crime, resulting in precarious security situations. Although there are consistent efforts from international organizations and NGOs to aid in their transition, as the 2011 World Development Report states, insecurity is one of the biggest developmental challenges of our time. It severely affects a country’s overall economic growth.

Yet even under these circumstances, grassroots entrepreneurship can be a way for people to impact their communities while also promoting economic growth. Still, many in the development community question why entrepreneurship thrives in some places rather than others.

At infoDev, we believe that great ideas can be born anywhere. That philosophy is supported by our recent feasibility study that aimed to gauge the mobile applications sector in Afghanistan and provide recommendations for growth.

Cases like these begin to answer the question posed earlier: why entrepreneurship thrives in some environments versus others. In the future, however, perhaps we should strive to better understand the conditions that foster entrepreneurship and its growth in fragile, less secure environments.

China's Answer to Job Creation

Joshua Wimpey's picture

About seven million college graduates are expected to flood the Chinese labor market this year. Seven . . . million . . . hopeful . . . graduates – all looking for work!
 
The Chinese central government, in response, has been actively pursuing policies that expand employment by supporting the growth of small and medium-size firms, as well as by promoting entrepreneurship among young graduates.

But have these policies been effective? How is China tackling the global challenge of job creation? And are there lessons other countries around the world can learn from China?

The Economic Cost of Gender Inequality

Katrin Schulz's picture


Madame Ngetsi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
is one of thousands of women in the world who—despite their talent, drive, and potential to contribute to the economic development of their countries—may never be able to fulfill their dreams of starting their own businesses. Their dreams may be dashed because of outdated legislation that reproduces debilitating gender roles. 

If she were a man in the DRC, Madame Ngetsi’s initial steps in starting her business would be to obtain a certificate confirming the headquarters location, notarize the articles of association, and register with the Commercial Registry.  As a woman, however, a significant roadblock stands in her way:  She is legally mandated to first obtain her husband’s permission to register a business.  This legal requirement, found in the family code rather than in any commercial or business code, is fully in effect in the DRC.  Permission letters are readily found on file at women-owned company registries.  Married men face no such requirement.

Placing your bets: Subsistence or Transformational Entrepreneurship

Morten Seja's picture


The importance of dividing entrepreneurs into two distinct categories: transformational and subsistence was the topic of an inspiring talk of MIT Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, Antoinette Schoar at the World Bank. In crude terms, subsistence entrepreneurs are solely concerned about their survival,  and are tiny businesses and unlikely to grow or create new jobs. However, it needs to be said that they remain an important economic pillar, especially for developing countries. Contrarily, transformational entrepreneurs, the considerably smaller group of the two, strive for growth, are generally larger business owners, and provide relatively secure employment opportunities for others. They are the catalysts of innovation, job creation, productivity, and competitiveness.  This leads to a crucial question for development – should we target our policies towards entrepreneurs with transformational qualities even though they may not be the poorest of the poor since these are the ones that create more, sustainable and (often) productive employment?

Are you financially literate or financially capable?

Siegfried Zottel's picture


‘Imagine you have a lot of mangoes on your farm and your neighbor has lots of tomatoes. You make a bargain and he says he will give you three tomatoes for every mango you give him. If you give him fourteen mangoes, how many tomatoes do you expect him to give back to you?’

This question, amongst others, has been asked in the 2009 and 2011 Kenya FinAccess surveys. If you got the answer to this question right (see end of the blog for the correct answer), congratulations! It may be an indication that you are financially literate. Or would you rather be financially capable? ‘Financial Literacy’ and ‘Financial Capability’ are two terms many have heard about and usually they are used interchangeably. However, in a recent World Bank publication, which tries to ‘Make Sense of Financial Capability Surveys around the World’, the authors (Perotti, Zottel, Iarossi, and Bolaji-Adio) reviewed key approaches to measure financial literacy and capability. In doing so, they identified Financial Literacy to be often associated with financial knowledge.

When ‘Scandals’ Bring Good News

Ivana Rossi's picture




The very word “scandal” has a negative connotation. The dictionary definition says scandals are “associated with a disgraceful action or circumstance, or an offense caused by fault or misdeed” – and therefore, by definition, scandals damage someone’s reputation. No one wants to be involved in a scandal.

But: What if something good could actually come out of a scandal? Could some scandals become the source of good news?

When it comes to the disclosure of financial and business interests by public officials, the eruption of a scandal evidently can produce positive results.

From the United States in the 1970s to the recent scandals involving high-profile public figures in France, along with countless other examples worldwide, many high-profile scandals provide the impetus for the establishment or reform of disclosure systems. Initially, scandals push the issue of public officials’ integrity to the forefront of public debate. Discussions get heated up by colorful articles in the media about public officials’ wealth, both legitimate and illegitimate.

But, fortunately, some countries manage to keep their focus on the most important aspects of public officials’ financial misdeeds, without becoming distracted by breathless media gossip about the size of their bank accounts or vacation homes. Some countries take the opportunity to realize that an effective disclosure system requires the real attention.

Innovator-in-Chief: The Public Sector – Catalyst of Creativity

Christopher Colford's picture



Brace yourself for some dramatic new evidence about innovation and entrepreneurship – and and circle the dates October 16 and 17 on your calendar.

Propelling leading-edge ideas about competitiveness, Professor Mariana Mazzucato will be among the luminaries at a major conference at the World Bank in mid-October, organized by the Bank's global practice on Competitive Industries. An all-star array of policymakers, academics, business leaders and development practitioners will focus on today's top global economic-policy challenge: spurring growth and job creation.

Exploring “Making Growth Happen: Implementing Policies for Competitive Industries,” the conference in the Bank's Preston Auditorium will include Mazzucato among
some of the world’s foremost analysts of competitiveness. A professor at the University of Sussex in the U.K., Mazzucato’s iconoclastic new book  – “The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths” – is now rocking the economics world. Mazzucato's insights are forcing a rethinking about the essential role of the public sector in driving the investments that are shaping the modern economy.
 
Public sector? Shaping the economy? Yes, you read that right: Mazzucato amasses persuasive evidence that the government-funded development and deployment of advanced technologies has been pivotal in changing the economic landscape.

Government’s role as a growth catalyst has been just as creative as the role of the private sector – and perhaps even more venturesome. Despite their buccaneering bravado, for-profit firms have lately shied away from high-stakes, high-risk investments in unproven technologies. Mazzucato refutes the defeatist dogma that claims, falsely, that public-sector investment can never do anything right.

The evolution of startup competitions: The case of Pivot East

Nicolas Friederici's picture


One of the winning 'startup' teams at Pivot East2013 (Credit: PivotEast)

Innovation competitions of all sorts have become prevalent throughout Africa, from hackathons to ideation challenges, demo days, code jams, bootcamps, roadshows, and pitch fests, the list is endless. This development is almost parallel to the rise of tech hubs (BongoHive counts about 100 African hubs) that have sprung up from Dakar to Dar Es Salaam.

While it’s evident that events and competitions are valuable opportunities—especially for young innovators looking to leave their mark—more advanced ecosystems, like Nairobi’s,  have already begun to show signs of competition fatigue and competition hopping.

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