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In defense of the besieged economist (part III): It’s not just economics

Maurizio Bussolo's picture


In my previous two blogs – Policies Matter and The Rise of the Global Middle Class – I took inspiration from a recent conference and tried to think through some of the main charges against - and pleas by - economists when considering this new, more polarized world.

Here I will argue that, while economists should not take the blame for the rise of populism and subsequent backlash against globalization, the profession needs to assume the responsibility of producing a convincing (new) narrative to get people backing the idea that open markets can not only go together but also support an inclusive society.

And we can do this by going beyond ‘standard’ economics.    

How to speed up commercial cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Georgia Harley's picture


In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), complaints about the business climate are pervasive – and many blame the courts. Evidence suggests that poor court performance affects the economy in BiH more than almost anywhere else in Europe and Central Asia, and likely beyond.  
 
By way of example, imagine you’re a local business and you have a dispute with a supplier worth less than 2,500 EUR. You’ll wait an average of 702 days before you hear your court decision...and that’s before the decision is even enforced!

So what can be done?

The economic benefits of LGBTI inclusion

Georgia Harley's picture
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is an all too familiar story. Members of this community are frequent targets of violence and other human rights abuses, and often face prejudice and hardship at work, in their communities, and at home.

Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity - has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life
This is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense: a growing body of evidence indicates that discrimination against LGBTI people has a negative economic impact on society.

Judging it smart, Azerbaijan’s courts go digital

Tako Kobakhidze's picture
Baku


















I was back in Baku recently, after a 9 year gap, and guess what I recognized first? Yes, those famous pounding winds – immortalized in the city’s ancient Persian name of Bādkube – or “city of winds”. But as I went about rediscovering this thriving city along the Caspian Sea, I soon realized that I would also be witness to “winds of change”.

Indeed, so much had changed here since my last visit. Most visibly, the urban skyline is now speckled with construction cranes, reflecting a city busy growing upward – its physical outline seeming to transform before my eyes. But infrastructure is just one aspect of Baku’s modern story. Beyond the hectic expansion of concrete and metal, I was also able to observe exciting changes in technology and innovation that are helping to transform an integral part of this city’s life – its judicial services!

Turning Romania’s secondary cities into engines of growth

Marius Cristea's picture
Also available in: Română


On March 10, a World Bank team of urban specialists will visit Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi to engage academics, students, local authorities and stakeholders in discussing the role of secondary cities in supporting sustainable growth and improved economic opportunities in Romania.
 
Strengthening Romania’s secondary cities is vital to supporting the country’s efforts in converging faster with the EU and generating sustainable, long-term growth. In turn, rapid growth comes with a set of challenges that cannot be tackled by local authorities alone.

Women count: Turning demographic challenge into opportunty in Armenia

Laura Bailey's picture
Also available in: Հայերեն


“You can’t hold back time,” goes the saying (and the song). Indeed, the Laws of Nature dictate that people and societies get older and older, whether we like it or not.

But let me pose a question: are aging societies doomed to experience stagnation or a decline in living standards? Some might believe so, but I would argue that it is possible to address the realities of changing demographics that come from aging – through bold adaptive action!

Beyond celebrating – Removing barriers for women in the South Caucasus

Mercy Tembon's picture
Georgia kindergarten
























After seventeen months in the South Caucasus, I have learnt a lot from colleagues in the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia about this day, March 8th. It is considered one of the most grandiose days of the calendar – when women and girls of all ages are acknowledged and showered with flowers and gifts of various kinds. Gifts range from a handmade card or a trinket to a bunch of violets or mimosa flowers. Older women might receive a bottle of French perfume, cosmetics, cutlery, crockery or other household items.

On March 8th, it is a common occurrence to see street vendors selling flowers in abundance, and shops are mainly full of male customers. The most important gift is that, on this day, men are also supposed to do all the house chores, so that on this day at least, women can forget about dishes, cooking and childcare, and enjoy some well-deserved time off! In a nutshell, it is a day of paying tribute to women everywhere – in homes, classrooms, and workplaces.

In defense of the besieged economist (part II): The global middle class

Maurizio Bussolo's picture


In my previous blog, I came to the defense of my fellow economists – who repeatedly take flak for not anticipating the global financial meltdown in 2008 or missing key signposts pointing toward the current rise of anti-globalization around the world.

I used that opportunity to explore the notion that, while there is certainly room for criticism, it is unfair to brand many economic polices economists have supported as ‘bad deals’ (a chief example being trade liberalization) by simply focusing on their negative elements, lest we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Here I will bolster this defense by calling our attention to a global perspective on the middle class. Often, in the current debate about the uncertain situation of the middle class, or the stagnation of income for the median earner, one overlooks the geographic focus of the debate. This debate is ongoing, with few exceptions, in high income countries. However, from a global perspective, the middle class is in very good health.

Romania should continue to reform its state-owned enterprises to enhance growth

Elisabetta Capannelli's picture
Also available in: Română


As the new government in Bucharest starts implementing its program - looking for strong, sustainable and equitable drivers of economic growth - I would argue that one of the first areas where the authorities should focus is a continuation of the reform and modernization of Romania's large, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that was initiated several years ago.

Accelerating the process of convergence with the European Union requires renewed attention to the structural reform agenda, including in the SOE sector. An improved SOE performance will increase Romania’s long-term economic growth potential, create better jobs, and have positive spillover effects on local and regional development - in addition to higher budget revenues.

Is there something wrong with us economists?

Maurizio Bussolo's picture


We economists did not see the 2008 global financial crisis coming.

Nor did we anticipate, predict or, at least, warn people about the current wave of anti-trade, anti-immigration, and populism!?

To be fair, some economists were sounding alarms in the lead-up to the financial crisis. And even with the current backlash, although we may have missed the chance to predict it, many had warned that we were understating the impacts of global trade and that distributional tensions - the result of an unequal impact of globalization, technological change, and aging on certain groups - were mounting.

It seems very important – especially when considering the ongoing fierce rhetoric with which some policy proposals and decisions are described – to remain cool-headed, carefully analyze data, stay engaged and support reforms that are backed by solid evidence.

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