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New Structural Economics

Development Economists Can Learn from a Pop Musician

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Image Courtesy: http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2012/02/grammys-2012-paul-mccartneys-my-valentine-performance.htmlIn his hit My Valentine, former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney sings about a Moroccan vacation where foul weather meant he and his love could not enjoy the vacation and planned sightseeing they had envisioned. Sir Paul was frustrated, until his love said the weather mattered little and they should change their mindset and make the most of it. That advice inspired the opening lyrics of his tune -- What if it rained?/ We didn't care/ She said that someday soon/ The sun was gonna shine/ And she was right/ This love of mine,/ My Valentine -- and taught him a valuable lesson: Complaining about the missing ingredients necessary to achieve any goal is a waste. It is far better to focus on what is already available and make the most of things.

The Development Debate: A Rejoinder

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin and famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde had very little in common. Yet they agreed on one thing: the importance of ideas in human life. The former once said: “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?” The latter boldly wrote that “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” My colleagues who serve as regional chief economists at the Bank -- Shanta Devarajan, Kalpana Kochhar, Indermit Gill -- also agree with me that ideas drive various societal transformations. Nevertheless, they disagree with me on several points, as highlighted in their joint post on Africa Can. We all want to generate and channel the best knowledge on development to policymakers around the world who have been struggling for centuries—if not millennia—to lift their people out of poverty.

Reducing poverty and climbing the ladder to prosperity aren’t easy: From 1950-2008, only 28 economies in the world have reduced their gaps with US by 10 percent or more. Among those 28 economies, only 12 are non-European and non-oil exporters. Such a small number is sobering: It means that most countries have been trapped in middle-income or low-income status. As development economists, we must find a way to help them improve their performance so that our dream of “a world free of poverty” can be realized and they can close the gap with the high-income countries.

Africa means never saying goodbye

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

I visited three African countries – Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa– during my first week as Chief Economist at the World Bank in June 2008. Many visits to other African countries followed, but Ethiopia holds for me a special interest. I’ve just visited again, for a fourth time. While I am sure I will go back again after I depart the Bank on June 1 this year, this was my final visit to Africa as Chief Economist.

Over four years, I’ve seen Ethiopia gradually embrace structural transformation and its practical application. Leaders there are acutely aware that, if they are to maintain a robust growth rate (GDP growth has been around 10.5% on average over the past few years), they must move away from agriculture, the dominant sector, toward industrial upgrading and technological innovation, often by imitating economies just a few rungs up the economic ladder.  Ethiopia’s agriculture sector is important and should not be neglected, but that alone won’t get the country onto a path toward middle income and finally to high income status.

Jumping monkeys, George Clooney, and NSE

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Source: 'Comment: The New Structural Economics' PPT by Ricardo HausmannIt’s not every day that jumping monkeys and George Clooney are discussed in the context of a framework for development economics. But that’s exactly what happened on March 6 when Justin Yifu Lin presented his book, ‘New Structural Economics: A framework for Rethinking Development Policy’, with Regional Chief Economist for Africa Shanta Devarajan moderating and Harvard Professor Ricardo Hausmann providing a lively counterpoint as discussant. Justin made an impassioned case for how industrial structure is endogenous to endowment structure, arguing that following comparative advantage and involving the state as a facilitator can be the ticket to income growth and poverty reduction. Hausmann argued that comparative advantage is not determined by an economy’s broad endowment of factors, but by what you know how to do. He also argued that imitation (for example, if George Clooney wears a brand of cologne, other men would wear it too) and moving preferentially towards nearby goods (the jumping monkey analogy) are powerful drivers of innovation and success in industry. Watch the video to get the full narrative or download the Powerpoints here.

Beyond Keynesianism in the Year of the Dragon

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Millions of Chinese have just celebrated the beginning of the year of the Dragon - a year which according to Chinese tradition is auspicious for ambitious undertakings. These may be required as the global economy faces severe headwinds. According to the January edition of Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report the world economy is expected to grow at 2.5 percent and 3.1 percent in 2012 and 2013, significantly below the 3.6 percent projected for both years in last July’s GEP. But even achieving these much weaker outturns is highly uncertain. The downturn in Europe and weaker growth in several large developing countries, such as Brazil and India, could potentially reinforce one another, resulting in an even weaker outcome. But without growth it will be more difficult to reduce the high debt of some advanced economies to sustainable levels and create much needed jobs world-wide.

Picking winners

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Concepts derived from structural-change theory are being revived and debated in exciting new ways, as evidenced in a recent conference at the World Bank earlier this month on ‘Structural Transformation and Economic Growth.’ Top researchers presented new papers and new ongoing work that covered globalization and structural transformation, sectoral diversification and human capital, industrial policy, and country case studies. 

The conference revealed an important emerging consensus about the role of the government in providing both soft infrastructure (for example a conducive business environment, regulations, and legal system) and hard infrastructure (such as port facilities, highways, telecommunications, and power).  Indeed, few dispute that broad-based interventions to support industrial upgrading and diversification are crucial to facilitating structural transformation and to spurring sustainable growth. 

What Industrial Policy?

Keijiro Otsuka's picture

Recently, economists began proposing the strategy for industrial development in low-income countries.  But there are few explicit recommendations as to what role governments should play in fostering industrialization.  Related question is whether we can draw useful lessons from successful experience of industrial development in East Asia for other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

The paper entitled “A Cluster-Based Industrial Development Policy for Low-Income Countries” (Policy Research Working Paper 5703) proposes an industrial policy consisting of four pillars of recommendations based on roughly 20 case studies of industrial clusters in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Leveraging Nigeria’s Comparative Advantage

Volker Treichel's picture

With a view to assessing the practical implications of the Growth Identification and Facilitation framework (GIFF) (*for more on this, see the bottom of this post) in a concrete country case, Justin Yifu Lin and I are preparing a draft paper applying the framework to Nigeria. The paper (which is expected to be published shortly) identifies as appropriate comparator countries for Nigeria: China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia. The key sectors that are identified by the paper are TV receivers, motorcycles and motor vehicle parts, fertilizers, tires, vegetable oil, meat, meat products and poultry, leather, palm oil and rice, telecommunications, wholesale and retail and construction. Our key recommendation for Nigeria is to address power shortages in a targeted manner through Independent Power Plants located in industrial zones, as well as create other enabling conditions, e.g. through subsidized access to finance and promotion of research and development (agriculture). In the area of trade policy, the government could pre-commit to reducing tariffs over a period of years and at the same time to creating a set of enabling conditions that would obviate the need for tariff protection. That way, significant incentives would be in place for the private sector to lobby the relevant government agencies to keep up their commitment to addressing these constraints. Before finalizing the paper, I visited Nigeria to meet with a range of industries that had been identified by the paper as possible target sectors and better understanding their business prospects and constraints, as well as meet with senior government officials to gauge their reaction to the proposed framework.

Choosing countries as models for industrial growth

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Train station. India. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

Shanta’s thoughtful comments on our Growth Identification and facilitation (GIF) paper are most welcome. The issues of industrialization and structural transformation are at the heart of economic development. Following comments already made by my co-author Célestin Monga on this blog, let me offer a few thoughts to this exchange.

First, the GIF approach explains the economic success of a very diverse group of countries: China (with 1.3 billion population), Japan (100 million); Taiwan-China (20 million); Korea (40 million); Singapore (5 million); or Mauritius (400.000). The framework has also been applied in large Western countries such as Germany, France, and United States, and small European countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Ireland. The political systems of those economies are also very different, some are democratic and some are authoritarian.

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