Category Archives: Global

Beyond the tyranny of GDP

Economists are fixated with what they can easily measure, but sometimes this means they can’t see the wood from the trees and focus on what is really important.

There are very good reasons why Gross Domestic Product, the sum of all goods and services produced for sale in an economy in a given time period, is the most widely watched economic indicator across the world. With adjustments for changes in prices over time and across countries, it is relatively easily comparable. When measured on a per capita basis, it is a useful – if far from perfect – proxy for the standard of living.

However, the intense focus on GDP numbers can distort public debate and political incentives as hitting growth targets becomes a holy grail. All growth is treated equally, no matter how broadly shared its benefits or how environmentally sustainable. People-centered priorities like jobs and incomes become secondary. Continue reading

Study: Liberalizing Foreign Investment in Services Boosts Manufacturing in Indonesia

Here is a post on the World Bank’s ‘The Trade Post’ blog written by Gonzalo Varela, Sjamsu Rahardja and myself on our recent working paper.

Austerity and Equality

Recent research by the OECD is unequivocal, if hardly surprising: reducing the fiscal deficit by raising taxes makes society more equal, but doing so by reducing welfare spending makes society more unequal. This holds for all 29 OECD countries studied, although the magnitude varies by country, depending on how large and progressive are their respective tax and welfare systems. Continue reading

Economic Premise: Service Sector Reform and Manufacturing Productivity

On foot of a recently published Policy Research Working Paper, exploring the potential for reforms to Indonesian service sector FDI policy to drive productivity in downstream manufacturing sectors, my co-authors and I have prepared a – much more digestible! – Economic Premise note for the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. Published today, and available here.

Côte d’Ivoire: An Elephant at the Crossroads

cote_d_Ivoire_flagIn 2013, Côte d’Ivoire will be aiming to go one better than in 2012 across two fronts. The national football team will try to improve on last year’s runners-up spot in the African Cup of Nations, while the Ivorian authorities are targeting an increase in real GDP growth from 8.6% to 9%.

Having contracted by -4.7%  in 2011 on foot of the post-electoral political crisis that saw 3,000 people killed, real GDP rebounded strongly in 2012. Whether this represents a one-time recovery of lost ground or is indicative of higher trend growth remains to be seen. The Ivoirian authorities are aiming for double-digit growth rates from 2014 in a bid to position the country as an emerging market by 2020. Although slightly less bullish, the IMF expects a still impressive average growth rate of 7.5%  over the 2013-2015 period. Continue reading

’13: Another Year of Living Dangerously?

We saw the first ripples of the US sub-prime crisis in the summer of 2007. A year later, the global economy was on the precipice of disaster. Only resolute action by world leaders, Gordon Brown not least among them, and coordinated fiscal and monetary stimulus prevented a re-run of the Great Depression.

Cracks in the Eurozone edifice which had been papered over during the good times were soon brutally exposed. As the crisis enters its seventh calendar year, we are more than half way through a lost decade. The question, particularly on Europe’s periphery is whether one lost decade will turn into two.

2013 promises to be yet another momentous year in Irish economic history; the year Ireland hopes to cease being a ward of the troika; a year plagued with potential banana skins. Without doubt, the fallout from yet another hair-shirt budget will dominate the early months of the year. It follows that we will face into a similarly challenging budget cycle as 2013 draws to a close. Like peeling an apple, the closer you get to the core, the more the pips squeak. Budgets will only get harder. Continue reading

Indonesia Rising

After the trauma of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, Indonesia has come roaring back, growth averaging over 6% in recent years even as the world struggles with the first financial crisis of the 21st century, and the deepest since the 1930s.

If the developed world remains wracked by ‘slowing pains’, many of Indonesia’s economic challenges can be classed as ‘growing pains’.

Creaking infrastructure, for instance, results from under-investment, but the problem is rendered far more acute by the capacity strains that come with break-kneck economic growth. Roads may be of insufficient number and quality, but the trebling of road traffic over the past decade is the real source of bottlenecks.

Policymakers aim to help the economy kick on to reach its full potential, with growth in the 7-8% range which would see Indonesia become one of the world’s top ten economies by 2025.

While Indonesia’s large domestic market and burgeoning middle class shield the economy to a certain extent from ongoing economic weakness and uncertainty in the developed world, so-called ‘decoupling’ has been proven a mirage for emerging markets. Indonesia is no different. The combination of slowing growth in China and stagnation in developed export markets are two challenges on the immediate horizon.

Economic transition in China, however, brings its own opportunities. Increasingly, rising wages in China mean Indonesia is being sought out as a low cost production hub. Increased domestic demand in China means a massive, growing export market on Indonesia’s doorstep.

During my time working with the World Bank in Indonesia, I made a modest contribution to the latest Indonesian Economic Quarterly.

These are its top five take-aways: Continue reading