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economic growth

When It Comes to Tackling Inequality, Start Early

Ana Revenga's picture
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It seems that everyone is talking about inequality these days, and I, for one, am happy to see this issue at the forefront in the development discussion.

We can look at inequality in a number of ways, which are not unrelated. One of the most visible types of inequality on the radar is inequality of outcomes — things like differences in academic achievements, career progression, earnings, etc. — which, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad. Rewarding an individual’s effort, innate talents and superior life choices can provide incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, and can help drive growth.  

However, not all inequalities are “good.” When inequality perpetuates itself because those born poor consistently do not have access to the same opportunities as those born rich, what emerges is a deep structural inequality that is bad for poverty reduction, bad for economic growth, and bad for social cohesion. How pervasive are these deep inequalities? Much more than we would like. Indeed, when we examine what is happening in many countries around the world today, we find large and persistent, even growing, gaps in earnings between rich and poor. And we find that those who start out in poverty or are part of a disadvantaged group tend to remain there, with little opportunity to work their way out.

How do we explain this, and what can we do to tackle it? We need to take a step back and look at where this inequality originates, and that is where the concept of equality of opportunity comes in to play. This concept broadly refers to access to a basic set of services that are necessary, at the minimum, for a child to attain his or her human potential, regardless of the circumstances — such as gender, geographic region, ethnicity, and family background — into which he or she is born. Too often, access to such basic services like electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care and education is much lower among children born into circumstances that place them at a disadvantage. Children from disadvantaged groups thus set off on an unequal path from day one, which curbs their opportunities and potential into adulthood.

Russia’s growth prospects: what about aging?

Kaspar Richter's picture

Spare a thought for the economist.

While in the past, people might have resorted to reading tea leaves to figure out what their future has in store for them, these days, at least on economic matters, people turn to the next available economist. But while economists are great at analyzing the past, predicting the future is still a complicated task.

In order to come up with projections, economists look at data. Now, it turns out that economists are often making long-term assessments based on the latest news. Take a look at these growth projections for ten years ahead for Russia, based on polls of economists conducted by Consensus Economics, along with actual growth in the year of the projections (Figure 1).  Clearly, while long-term projections are less volatile, the two are correlated – the better the present the better the future, and vice versa. In particular, long-term projections have noticeably nudged down since the crisis.

Figure 1: Actual Growth and 10-Years Ahead Growth

Projections for Russia (percent), 2004 to 2012

Infrastructure paramount issue for Africa

Vivien Foster's picture

Africa's Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation

Yesterday in New York I attended a discussion on infrastructure in Africa. As co-author of the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, I've been talking with people for years about the importance of reliable infrastructure for economic and social activity in Africa. Today we're talking about how infrastructure can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The core of the MDGs is poverty reduction and improved human development, but how can those goals be met without basic infrastructure to create economic opportunities and support public service delivery? This is a critical question when you think about the facts that 30 Sub-Saharan countries have a power supply crisis, their road freight moves as fast as a horse-drawn cart, and less than 5 percent of agricultural land is irrigated. Although Africa’s infrastructure needs may look daunting, countries like China have shown that it is possible to deliver on the requisite scale.