Financial Markets…Global equities bounced back on Tuesday as Ukraine tensions eased. The rebound was led by European stocks with the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index advancing 2.1%, the biggest rally in eight months. The European gauge tumbled 2.3% yesterday after Russia’s parliament granted President Putin the authority to use military force in Ukraine. Asian and developing-country shares also recovered amid improving investor sentiment. U.S. equities gained as well, with the S&P 500 index surging 1.4% to a fresh record high in mid-day trading.
Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) represent a large and growing pool of savings and an increasing number are owned by natural resource exporting countries. The funds have a variety of objectives, including intergenerational equity and macroeconomic stabilization. Traditionally they have invested abroad, increasingly in developing country assets, but always as part of a strategy to boost yields while remaining diversified. However, a recent trend sees an increasing number starting to invest in their domestic markets, including in infrastructure and other greenfield investments. Angola, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Nigeria are examples; funds with a domestic investment mandate are also being established by Colombia, Morocco, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
- sovereign wealth funds
The power of open data to bring together people from different streams of life for civic purposes was on full display around the world on February 22-23, 2014. Washington, D.C. was home to one of the 194 global International Open Data Day events that dotted cities around the world. Data was scraped. Visualizations were made. Code was written. Interfaces were designed. Prototypes were built. Initiatives were born (Here’s looking at you, Code for Nepal!). New friends were made. And a tooth was chipped.
photo credit: @anjelikadeo
Despite the unseasonably warm weather in Washington, D.C., more than 350 civic hackers, development specialists, coders, designers, and enthusiasts participated in two days of Open Data Day hacking and tutorials at the World Bank. Based on an informal poll (raise your hand, please?!) of all attendees at the beginning of the event, nearly two-thirds of the audience had never attended an Open Data Day event before. This was an unexpected but welcome surprise and bodes well for the continued growth of the open data community in Washington, DC.
Two days before the world observes International School Meals Day, I’m here sitting in the U.K. Houses of Parliament thinking about the unexpected evolution of school meals programs in recent years.
-Margaret Hodge, a British Labour politician, who has represented Barking, a district in East London, since 1994. On 9 June 2010, she was elected Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for overseeing government expenditures to ensure they are effective and honest.
Taxing Labor versus Taxing Consumption?
Europe’s welfare systems face substantial demographic headwinds. Increasing life expectancy and the approaching retirement of “Baby Boomers” will increase public expenditures for years to come. Rightfully, much attention is focused on containing additional spending needs for pensions, health and long term care. But how is all this being paid for?
Currently, the majority of social spending, including most importantly pension benefits, in most countries in Europe and Central Asia is financed through social security contributions, which are essentially taxes on labor. This has two important implications. First, in terms of fiscal sustainability, the growth in spending is only a concern if expenditures grow faster than the corresponding revenues. Since labor taxes are the predominant source of financing for most welfare systems in both EU and transition countries, aging will not only increase spending, but simultaneously exert pressure on revenues. With the exception of countries in Central Asia and Turkey, the labor force, and hence the number of taxpayers that pay labor taxes will decline by about 20 percent on average across the region. Second, already today, labor taxes, including both personal income taxes and social security contributions account on average for about 40 percent of total gross labor costs in Europe and Central Asia (including EU member states), compared to an average of 34 percent in the OECD. This means that for every US$ 1 received in net earnings, employers on average incur a labor cost of US$ 1.67. And out of the 67 cents that are paid in labor taxes, 43 cents (or 65 percent) are directly used to finance social security benefits. By increasing the cost of labor, the high tax burden potentially harms competitiveness, job creation, and growth in countries in the region.
If you go to a conference on cities and climate change, you inevitably hear the statement that “countries talk…but cities act”. This message was loud and clear at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last month, where a new report released by the C40 and ARUP detailed the 8000+ initiatives that C40 member cities are undertaking to either reduce GHG emissions or increase their climate resilience. Since the first such report came out in 2011, more cities are reporting on their efforts, and those reporting are doing ever more, expanding the array of initiatives they have launched.
The answer is yes, but not as fast. In the U.S. for example, we know that new businesses start small, and if they survive, grow fast as they age. An average 40 year old US plant employs over seven times as many workers as the typical plant five years or younger. In a new paper, my co-authors Meghana Ayyagari, Vojislav Maksimovic and I focus on developing countries and look at what happens to firms in the formal sector as they age. We focus on formal firms because informal firms look very different from formal firms in terms of size, productivity and education level of managers and there is little evidence that growth occurs by informal firms eventually becoming large formal establishments. We see that there the average 40 year old plant employs almost five times as many workers as the average plant that is five years or younger.