Despite tremendous progress in poverty reduction over the last two decades, poverty still persists. Along with South Asia, Africa is a region where large numbers of people continue to live in extreme poverty. It is also a region where there is clearly room for higher foreign trade levels (see Chart). Given that trade can generate growth – and thus poverty reduction – focus on trade-related reforms (e.g. lower tariffs, better logistics, and trade facilitation) deserves to be a high priority of the region.
The Chinese economy has changed dramatically over the last three decades. While its per-capita income was only a third of that of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1978, it has now reached an upper-middle income status, lifting more than half a billion people out of poverty. The numbers are dramatic: per capita income has doubled for more than a billion people in just 12 years. What was once a primarily rural, agricultural economy has been transformed into an increasingly urban and diversified economic structure, with decentralization and market-based relations rising relative to the traditional government driven command-based economy.
Spring in DC draws more than just tourists. Last week, government officials, policy makers, civil society representatives and other thought leaders converged to take stock of the global economy during the IMF-World Bank spring meetings. The tone in the hallways was optimistic, but cautious. Growth in advanced economies still remains tepid, weighed down by lingering effects of the global financial crisis, demographic challenges, as well as weakening innovation and productivity growth. At the same time, there are encouraging signs that developing countries are in good shape, thanks to fiscal buffers that helped them to weather the storm.
Nevertheless, we must be mindful of the work ahead: the IMF warned of a ‘3-speed recovery’, where emerging markets are growing rapidly, the United States is recovering faster than most other advanced industrial countries, but Europe continues to struggle. Where does this leave developing countries? At a meeting with the G24 – a group of developing countries - I had the privilege of discussing the prospects for growth, and policies needed to achieve productivity growth essential for eliminating extreme poverty and for creating shared prosperity.
Thomas Friedman’s bestseller The World Is Flat highlights the strong forces pushing the world towards a single economic platform. The technology-fueled globalization in the provision of services, and the widespread organization of production processes as global value chains are part of his narrative.
As the Carnival in Brazil kicked off last weekend, Brazilians were ready for a party. They have reasons to celebrate. Despite a lackluster GDP performance in the last two years, unemployment rates remain at record low levels.
In 2009, an EU-based chemical manufacturer opened a plant inside one of FYR Macedonia’s recently-established special economic zones. The plant began production of catalysts, a type of emissions-control component used in automobiles. Two years later, this investment drove chemical products to the third-highest spot on Macedonia’s export list, lessening the country’s reliance on metals and textiles.
In Nicaragua, low labor costs and high security compared to its neighbors have led zonas francas to expand dramatically, attracting producers of electronic wires and medical devices and expanding the country’s exports beyond an already-strong apparel sector. Between 2006 and 2008, for example, ignition wiring sets for vehicles were the country’s fourth biggest export.
These two examples demonstrate a new trend in small economies. Increasingly, as global value chains grow in importance,
The state-owned operator of Indonesia’s Tanjung Priok Port is taking major steps to decrease congestion at the country’s main gateway. The company, Pelindo II, recently announced it will increase storage fees at the port to discourage shippers from leaving containers there for long periods of time. It has also said it will install a new information technology system to better monitor and direct traffic at the port.
The two initiatives are an effort to boost the performance of a port that handles two-thirds of Indonesia’s international trade. The container traffic at Tanjung Priok has grown at a rate of about 20 percent the last two years and is expected to double by 2015. But containers arriving at the port spend an average of 6 days to obtain clearance and get removed, one of the highest “dwell time” rates in the region and up from 4.9 days in 2010.
Economists and government officials are trying to bring down this number. As a statistic, dwell time is a vital measure of a country’s ease of trade. When dwell time is high,