Increased cross-learning and cooperation among developing countries has been a remarkable feature of the global economy in recent decades. It's been some time now since knowledge and technology flowed only from advanced economies ("North") to developing ones ("South").
Whenever we think of textile workers nowadays, we tend to think about cheap labor—particularly women sewing in overcrowded factories. In fact, the textile industry nurtures the narrative of how maquiladoras in the south have robbed manufacturing jobs from countries like the U.S., or how China has inundated the global market with cheap goods.
With a few exceptions, industrialized nations are still struggling with unemployment, unable to recover completely from the 2008 economic crisis. In the U.S. things seem to be improving as the unemployment rate fell in January to 8.3 percent, its lowest level since early 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last week’s State of the Union underscored the debate surrounding public spending as a measure to stimulate economic growth. President Barrack Obama argued that to “win the future” the US needs to make significant public expenditures to update the country’s infrastructure, health, and educational systems. The opposite view is that economic growth can only occur through decreased public spending and private sector growth.
Such varied opinions on public expenditures do not exist in the US alone—the debate is global. From the US to the UK, from Europe to Africa, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, to spend or not to spend is a question faced everywhere.
Beyond the epicenter of the economic crisis—the US and Western Europe—public spending has had an indeterminate effect on
The labor market has the unenviable task of not only absorbing the additional workers entering the labor force each year (as a result of population growth) but also dealing with the unemployed workers as economies. The Keynesian view of unemployment is due to lack of aggregate demand while the neoclassical view is that when prices and wages adjust unemployment will come down significantly. In more and more developing countries, long-term unemployment (workers unemployed for over six months) is spilling over into structural unemployment, which the ILO in its several publications underscores as the mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the demand for skills in the labor markets.
This structural unemployment may arise due to automation in the work place (e.g. need for higher and higher computer skills), rigidities in the labor market, such as high costs of training or in the case of US de-industrialization as manufacturing jobs are continuously lost to
The current recovery in advanced economies is now exhibiting several signs of fragility. Their medium term growth prospects also look difficult. In this environment two questions arise: Will developing economies experience a renewed downward “recoupling” as a result of a low-growth scenario in advanced economies?
Trade theory has always been lagging behind reality. From Ricardo ‘s (1817) explanation of trade based on relative productivity/technology differences among nations, it took over a century for Eli Heckscher and Bertil Ohlin (1933) to formalize a model that would explain inter- industry trade patterns based on a countries ’natural resources or factor endowments.
Do you remember The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier’s 2007 book which became a classic? If you do, you will certainly like his latest work, The Plundered Planet. He came to launch his new book to the Bank this week, and I found it both fascinating and provocative. Let me give some examples of why.
Professor Collier, now the Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, declares a two-front war on economists and environmentalists at the same time. He is against what he calls “utilitarian economists,” because if left on their own, they would end up plundering the planet. But Collier also takes on “romantic environmentalists,” who would be unable to eradicate hunger in case they’re given the chance to rule the world. So as you can see, the book’s premises don’t really fit into the script of the blockbuster, Oscar-winning movie Avatar.
For Collier, who also worked as the Bank’s Research Director some years ago, Nature is the lifeline for the countries of the bottom billion – and thus cannot remain untouched. With a strong faith in the power of well-informed ordinary citizens, Collier proposes a series of international standards that would help poor countries rich in natural assets better manage those resources. Technology, which enlarges the capacity of ordinary citizens, is also necessary to turn Nature into assets. But of course, in order to be effective and benefit the bottom billion instead of just the few at the top, regulation, which requires governance, is another seminal element of the equation to create prosperity. If you leave regulation out of the equation, as some Libertarians do, the result is nature plundered. But if you end up with too much regulation – curbing the use of Nature – and thus preventing technology, then the result is hunger. And I’m certainly not one of those radical, romantic environmentalists who can imagine a bottom billion who is hungry but happy.
The global financial and economic crisis of 2008 has brought an urgency to focus on shorter-term policy issues related to managing bubbles, analyzing current development paradigms, and drawing out policy lessons for future action, particularly lessons learned during the past two years. At the same, longer-term development challenges also must be addressed to avoid the mistakes of 1970s and 1980s when managing stabilization issues dominated economic policy making and development economics was pushed aside for a while. For example, with the exception of East Asian countries and more recently India, why are African, Eastern European and Central Asian, and other South Asian countries unable to sustain high growth rates for more than five to seven years? What are the policy implications of demographic changes and climate change? There is a need for policy discussion on frontier topics such as rethinking globalization in trade, finance, and labor; new economic geography; green growth; and inclusive, balanced, and sustainable growth.
The 15th-century Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli is said to be the first to state, “Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis.” During a crisis, countries experiment with policies and learn a lot in a hurry. This overview shares this learning on early policy responses to the current economic crisis, focusing particularly on specific issues that are of interest to policy makers and practitioners in the developing countries. The overview is a compilation of notes that staff members of the World Bank Institute have used during global dialogues and international seminars and conferences since October 2008.
What brought the world to the edge of an abyss in September 2008? After quickly recovering from the Asian crisis of 1997-98, world economic growth accelerated during the period 2000-07. However, in hindsight, there was a ‘perfect storm’ in the making as US and European housing defaults began to pile up beginning in late 2006, oil prices doubled in a few months during late 2007 and early 2008, while rice, wheat, and corn prices jumped by 40-50% during the same period.