Since our most recent Russia Economic Report (RER) just four months ago, the World Bank revised its 2013 growth outlook for Russia – down from 3.3 percent to 2.3 percent. This downward revision in May represents a decline in our projections by 1.0 percentage point compared with March, and 1.3 percentage points compared with October 2012.
Europe and Central Asia
As an economist dealing with energy efficiency on a daily basis, I have studied and written about its benefits for several countries. But it was not until recently that I got around to looking into it at home.
It all started with my work with the World Bank’s energy efficiency agenda, particularly after the G8 Forum asked the Bank in 2006 to prepare a “Clean Energy Investment Framework”. Soon thereafter, we supported a series of low carbon country case studies in India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and China. A number of clear messages were delivered to us, including: “our priority is economic growth and poverty reduction”.
So how were we to get the best of both worlds – a reduction in the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions (like carbon dioxide) and continued economic growth?
Sovereign difficulties have divided financial markets in the Euro area, thereby increasing differences in bank lending rates across countries. Policy makers in both Brussels and Frankfurt are concerned about an uneven transmission of policy interest rate cuts by the European Central Bank (ECB) to bank lending rates across the region.
Based on this situation, a key question stands out: is the link between official, market, and retail interest rates broken?
When markets are functioning properly, interest rates on loans follow the policy rate in a uniform way across countries (granted with some lag). But, in the context of the ongoing crisis, markets became somewhat irresponsive – resulting in ECB rate cuts being unevenly passed on to borrowers across Euro-area countries. This uneven distribution has meant that those countries facing greater financial difficulties had to endure tougher financing conditions than those facing fewer difficulties – as exemplified when comparing Spanish and Italian retail rates to the much-lower French and German ones.
So far, the economic literature has been relatively robust in arguing that government bond yields or credit default swaps (CDSs), given their stability, do not exert much influence on the way banks set their interest rates for their clients. However, the crisis has shown that because of the interconnectedness of central bank and sovereign balance sheets, developments in sovereign markets affect retail interest rates.
How has this played out in the EU11 countries? Have retail interest rate decreased in those countries where central banks reduced their policy rates? Or, was this a reaction on downward movement of CDSs?
Figure 1. Interest rates on new lending to enterprises (in Percent) and CDS spreads (in basis points) in selected EU11 countries
The problem with the World Bank’s 20th anniversary in Kyrgyzstan last November was that everybody else’s party had happened already.
There has been a blur of speeches, gala concerts, jazz bands, canapés, toasts and traditional performances as one embassy after another feted twenty years of partnership with the Kyrgyz Republic. The same guests, speeches, and – truth be told - probably the same canapés.
We had to do something different. So, as we celebrated the last 20 years of our work in Kyrgyzstan (which have been quite good), we toasted the next 20 years as well.
Just six months ago, in the previous South East Europe Regular Economic Report (SEE RER) covering the six Western Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia (SEE6), we looked at the double-dip recession in this region, and structural policies needed for recovery.
Now, we are happy to report that recovery is, indeed, under way in each of these countries. In 2013, the SEE6 region is projected to grow 1.7 percent, thus ending the double-dip recession of 2012. Electricity, agriculture, and even some exports are helping with this rebound of output. Kosovo is leading the pack with a growth rate of 3.1 percent, with Serbia (which accounts for nearly half of the region’s GDP) expected to grow by 2 percent on the heels of increased FDI, exports, and a return to normal agricultural crops. (In 2012, by contrast, agricultural output in Serbia dropped 20 percent on account of a severe drought). Albania, FYR Macedonia, and Montenegro are all expected to grow by between 1.2-1.6 percent. Rounding out this group is Bosnia and Herzegovina – with expected growth of 0.5 percent.
So, are things finally looking up in the Balkans? Not exactly.
Figure 1: SEE6 Unemployment Rates, 2012
Source: LFS data and ILO. Kosovo’s tentative data suggest unemployment as high as 35 percent.
Over the last decade Montenegro has trebled its gross national income (from $2,400 in 2003 to $7,160 in 2012), has reduced its national poverty headcount from 11.3 percent in 2005 to 6.6 percent in 2010, and enjoys the highest per capita income among the six South East European countries.
Despite this considerable progress, however, Montenegro remains a country in need of a new economic direction. The global financial crisis has exposed Montenegro’s economic vulnerabilities and has called into question the country’s overall growth pattern. The period between 2006 and 2008 was characterized by unsustainably large inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) and inexpensive capital, which fueled a domestic credit consumption boom and a real estate bubble. When the bubble burst in late 2008 and in 2009 real GDP shrank by almost 6 percent, triggering a painful deleveraging and a difficult recovery that is not yet complete. With the base for Montenegro’s growth narrowing and the country’s continued reliance on factor accumulation rather than productivity, it has become clear that this old pattern cannot deliver the growth performance seen just a few years ago.
So, what kind of growth model can drive Montenegro’s next stage of development in the increasingly competitive environment of today’s global economy?
As spelled out in the recent report “Montenegro – Preparing for Prosperity” this country can go a long way toward returning to the impressive economic gains it was making just a few years ago by emphasizing three critical areas of development: sustainability, connectivity, and flexibility.
I recently visited a math classroom in Frumusani, Romania, where half of the students are Roma. It's critically important for all countries to invest in education in order to stay competitive in the global economy. That means education for all, including communities such as the Roma that have long faced discrimination. Please watch the video to hear more.
Read the first of this two-part blog post here.
The idea of a peer learning network for tax administrators came when I realized that tax authorities in different countries had many of the same questions: How do we initiate risk management? How are other countries dealing with compliance issues? How do countries ensure speedy VAT refunds and yet prevent fraudulent claims? And so on.
So why not get the tax officials from different countries together and provide a platform to discuss their challenges, experiences and innovative ways of solving problems. Mix them with a dose of tax experts from developed tax systems, et voila! That’s how TAXGIP (Tax Administrators eXchange for Global Innovative Practices) was born – it provides opportunities to exchange knowledge and good practices, and share experiences.
A significant share of the population in the Kyrgyz Republic – 37 percent – lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to the latest available data. And despite a relatively modest population of about 5.5 million, poverty rates across oblasts (provinces) span a striking range -- from 18 percent to 50 percent.
Why? Well, that is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.
Birkaç hafta önce İstanbul’da gerçekleştirilen Birleşmiş Milletler Orman Forumu’nun 10. Oturumunun açılışı ve Türkiye Başbakanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’ın orman kaybının durdurulması konusunun ciddiye alınması yönünde küresel topluluğa yaptığı ateşli çağrı ile ilgili bir blog yazısı yazmıştım. Başbakan Erdoğan bu çağrıyı alışılmadık bir şekilde iklim değişikliği veya biyolojik çeşitlilik kaybı ile ilgili endişelere herhangi bir atıfta bulunmadan yapmıştı; bunun yerine basit bir şekilde “bunu ahlaki sorumluluk gereği gerçekleştirmemiz gerekiyor” demişti.
Erdoğan konuşmasında "İnsanlığın karşı karşıya olduğu küresel tehditler ‘bana ne başkasından’ deme lüksünü ortadan kaldırıyor’” demiş ve eklemişti: “Biz sadece gövde taşıyan, gövdesinin üzerine kafa, o kafanın içinde beyin taşıyan fizyolojik varlıklar değiliz. Biz kalp, ruh ve vicdan taşıyoruz.”
Peki günlerce süren tartışmaların ve müzakerelerin sonucunda BM Forumu neyi başardı? Forum, Erdoğan’ın çağrısına karşılık verdi mi?
Her ne kadar bunu hemen görmek mümkün olmasa da, bu soruların cevabı tek kelime ile “evet”. Parantez içinde ifade edilen metnin neticede daha açık bir anlayışa ve somut eyleme yol açtığı bu tip müzakerelerde görüşlerin birbirine yavaş bir şekilde yakınlaşması her zaman belirgin bir şekilde gözlemlenemeyebilir.