Green growth requires green technologies: production techniques that economize on exhaustible resources and emit fewer greenhouse gases. The availability of green technologies both lowers social costs in the transition to a green growth path and helps achieve a satisfactory rate of material progress under that path. The theoretical case in favour of using industrial policy to facilitate green growth is quite strong. Economists’ traditional scepticism on industrial policy is grounded instead on pragmatic considerations having to do with the difficulty of achieving well-targeted and effective interventions in practice. While these objections deserve serious attention, I argue that they are not insurmountable. A key objective of this paper is to show how the practice of industrial policy can be improved by designing institutional frameworks that counter both informational and political risks.
SSA has grown rapidly over the last decade, but a curious feature of this growth was that it was accompanied by little structural change towards non-traditional tradables (such as manufactures). Now that China, the advanced economies, and most emerging markets are all slowing down, the question whether Africa’s high growth can be sustained looms larger. This article looks at this question from the lens of modern growth theory, paying particular attention to structural issues that are crucial for low-income countries. It comes down on the pessimistic side, due to what appear to be poor prospects for industrialization. This article also considers alternative models of growth, based on services instead of manufactures.
Revised version of the paper written for the Center for Global Development, Richard H. Sabot Lecture, on April 24, 2014.
Ideas are strangely absent from modern models of political economy. In most prevailing theories of policy choice, the dominant role is instead played by "vested interests"—elites, lobbies, and rent-seeking groups which get their way at the expense of the general public. Any model of political economy in which organized interests do not figure prominently is likely to remain vacuous and incomplete. But it does not follow from this that interests are the ultimate determinant of political outcomes. Here I will challenge the notion that there is a well-defined mapping from "interests" to outcomes. This mapping depends on many unstated assumptions about the ideas that political agents have about: 1) what they are maximizing, 2) how the world works, and 3) the set of tools they have at their disposal to further their interests. Importantly, these ideas are subject to both manipulation and innovation, making them part of the political game. There is, in fact, a direct parallel, as I will show, between inventive activity in technology, which economists now routinely make endogenous in their models, and investment in persuasion and policy innovation in the political arena. I focus specifically on models professing to explain economic inefficiency and argue that outcomes in such models are determined as much by the ideas that elites are presumed to have on feasible strategies as by vested interests themselves. A corollary is that new ideas about policy—or policy entrepreneurship—can exert an independent effect on equilibrium outcomes even in the absence of changes in the configuration of political power. I conclude by discussing the sources of new ideas.
Winter 2014. An earlier draft was titled “Ideas and Interests in Political Economy.”
A paper that introduces a series of World Bank country studies on structural change.
Unlike economies as a whole, manufacturing industries exhibit strong unconditional convergence in labor productivity. The article documents this at various levels of disaggregation for a large sample covering more than 100 countries over recent decades. The result is highly robust to changes in the sample and specification. The coefficient of unconditional convergence is estimated quite precisely and is large, at between 2–3% in most specifications and 2.9% a year in the baseline specification covering 118 countries. The article also finds substantial sigma convergence at the two-digit level for a smaller sample of countries. Despite strong convergence within manufacturing, aggregate convergence fails due to the small share of manufacturing employment in low-income countries and the slow pace of industrialization. Because of data coverage, these findings should be as viewed as applying to the organized, formal parts of manufacturing.
This is a substantially revised version of “Unconditional Convergence” below.
Government use policy to achieve certain outcomes. Sometimes the desired ends are worthwhile, and sometimes they are pernicious. Cross-country regressions have been the tool of choice in assessing the effectiveness of policies and the empirical relevance of these two diametrically opposite views of government behavior. When government policy responds systematically to economic or political objectives, the standard growth regression in which economic growth (or any other performance indicator) is regressed on policy tells us nothing about the effectiveness of policy and whether government motives are good or bad.
A short paper on the (mis)use of growth regressions.
The nation-state has long been under attack from liberal economists and cosmopolitan ethicists alike. But it has proved remarkably resilient and remains the principal locus of governance as well as the primary determinant of personal attachments and identity. The global financial crisis has further under- scored its centrality. Against the background of the globalization revolution, the tendency is to view the nation-state as a hindrance to the achievement of desirable economic and social outcomes. Yet it remains indispensable to the achievement of those goals.
Actually, we all do.
(Roepke Lecture), May 2012.
The global financial crisis has demonstrated that a financially open economy has many areas of vulnerability. Even when a country keeps its own house in order, it remains at the mercy of developments in external financial markets. So, one lesson to bear in mind is that policymakers need to guard against not just domestic shocks, but also shocks that emanate outward from financial instability elsewhere. To accomplish this, complete financial openness is not the best policy. A second lesson is that Turkey's prevailing growth strategy can neither be sustained nor generate enough employment. Therefore, it would be a mistake for the country to return to the status quo ante and resuscitate a model that fails to make adequate use of domestic resources. Most importantly, Turkey has to learn to live with a reduced reliance on external borrowing. The paper discusses the needed realignments in fiscal and exchange-rate policies.
Some changes in fiscal and exchange-rate policies are called for.
The objective of international economic arrangements must be to attain the maximum amount of integration or the maximum thickness in economic transactions that are consistent with maintaining space for diversity in national institutions and the arrangements. The objective would be to create enough policy space to allow rich countries to rework their social compacts at home, poor countries to restructure and diversify their economies so that they can position themselves better to benefit from globalisation, and all nations, rich and poor alike, to establish financial systems and regulatory structures that are more attuned to their own needs. A better managed globalisation will be a better globalisation, argues the paper.
Unlike economies as a whole, manufacturing industries exhibit unconditional convergence in labor productivity. The paper documents this finding for 4-digit manufacturing sectors for a large group of developed and developing countries over the period since 1990. The coefficient of unconditional convergence is estimated quite precisely and is large, at 3.0-5.6 percent per year depending on the estimation horizon. The result is robust to a large number of specification tests, and statistically highly significant. Because of data coverage, these findings should be as viewed as applying to the organized, formal parts of manufacturing.
Revised October 2011. Yes, it does exist, but you have to look for it in manufacturing industries.