Ideas to Action:

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May 28, 2004

Trading Up: Labor Standards, Development, and CAFTA

This brief examines the potential positive synergies between globalization, development, and labor standards. It argues that certain core labor standards can be applied globally without undermining comparative advantage, and that doing so would be good for development. The issues are also examined in terms of the recently concluded Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), whose fate in the U.S. Congress is currently uncertain because of a combination of protectionist interests on both sides of the aisle and Democratic concerns that the labor provisions are not strong enough.

August 1, 2003

Privatization in Latin America - Working Paper 31

In Latin America, privatization started earlier and spread farther and more rapidly than in almost any other part of the world. Despite positive microeconomic results, privatization is highly and increasingly unpopular in the region. While privatization may be winning the economic battle it is losing the political war: The benefits are spread widely, small for each affected consumer or taxpayer, and occur (or accrue) in the medium-term. In contrast, the costs are large for those concerned, who tend to be visible, vocal, urban and organized, a potent political combination.

John Nellis
July 29, 2003

Economic Policy and Wage Differentials in Latin America - Working Paper 29

This paper applies a new approach to the estimation of the impact of policy, both the levels and the changes, on wage differentials using a new high-quality data set on wage differentials by schooling level for 18 Latin American countries for the period 1977–1998. The results indicate that liberalizing policy changes overall have had a short-run disequalizing effect of expanding wage differentials, although this effect tends to fade away over time.

updated 07/04/2006

Jere R. Behrman and Miguel Székely
April 1, 2003

From Promise to Performance: How Rich Countries Can Help Poor Countries Help Themselves

At the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 the nations of the world committed to join forces to meet a set of measurable targets for reducing world poverty, disease, illiteracy and other indicators of human misery—all by the year 2015. These targets, later named the Millennium Development Goals, include seven measures of human development in poor countries. At the same summit, world leaders took on several qualitative targets applicable to rich countries, later collected in an eighth Goal. The key elements of the eighth Goal, pledge financial support and policy changes in trade, debt relief, and other areas to assist poor countries'domestic efforts to meet the first seven Goals. Combined, the eight Goals constitute a global compact between poor and rich to work today toward their mutual interests to secure a prosperous future.

February 27, 2003

New Data, New Doubts: Revisiting "Aid, Policies, and Growth" - Working Paper 26

The Burnside and Dollar (2000) finding that aid raises growth in a good policy environment has had an important influence on policy and academic debates. We conduct a data gathering exercise that updates their data from 1970-93 to 1970-97, as well as filling in missing data for the original period 1970-93. We find that the BD finding is not robust to the use of this additional data. (JEL F350, O230, O400)

Ross Levine and David Roodman
February 25, 2003

Privatization in Africa: What has Happened? What is to be Done? - Working Paper 25

Sub-Saharan African states urgently need expanded and more dynamic private sectors, more efficient and effective infrastructure/utility provision, and increased investment from both domestic and foreign sources. The long-run and difficult solution is the creation and reinforcement of the institutions that underpin and guide proper market operations. In the interim, African governments and donors have little choice but to continue to experiment with the use of externally supplied substitutes for gaps in local regulatory and legal systems.

John Nellis
December 20, 2002

World Bank Capital Neither Complements Nor Substitutes for Private Capital - Working Paper 20

What should the World Bank optimally do with the US$10 to $20 billion it can loan each year? Has it, in fact, done what is optimal? This study suggests a simple framework within which to measure the World Bank against an optimal international public financier for development. It goes on to argue that a careful treatment of the empirical evidence on Bank lending strongly contradicts optimal behavior under different assumptions. The evidence, in fact, rejects any notion that the Bank has substituted for private capital or that it has successfully catalyzed private development finance.

Michael A. Clemens
December 19, 2002

Do Rich Countries Invest Less in Poor Countries than the Poor Countries Themselves? - Working Paper 19

Global private capital flows have barely touched the poorest nations; the rich invest mostly with the rich. It is possible that failures in the global capital market prevent capital from exploiting high returns in poor countries; it is also possible that fundamental returns to investment are lower in poor countries. In this paper, a novel empirical framework uses standard data to conclude that 85% of wealth bias, whether caused by market failure or not, is domestic in origin. That is, poor country lenders are deterred from investing in poor countries to nearly the same degree that rich-country lenders are.

Michael A. Clemens
December 1, 2002

Private Sector Involvement in Financial Crisis Resolution: Definition, Measurement, and Implementation - Working Paper 18

Public policy on financial crises in emerging markets has implicitly been grounded in economic theory calling for lender-of-last-resort intervention when the country is solvent, and on theory recognizing that reputational damage is the quasi-collateral enabling lending to sovereigns with no physical collateral. The call for Private Sector Involvement — PSI — in the financing of crisis resolution has appropriately arisen from the desire for fairness as well as for successful outcomes. This paper identifies an array of PSI modalities and argues that in each crisis case the most voluntary type consistent with the circumstances should be chosen, to speed return to market access.

October 30, 2002

Policy Selectivity Foregone: Debt and Donor Behavior in Africa - Working Paper 17

We assess the dynamic behind the high net resource transfers of donors and creditors, IDA, bilaterals, IBRD, IMF and other multilateral creditors to the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. Analyzing a panel of 37 recipient countries over the years 1978-98, we find that net transfers were greater in poorer and smaller countries. The quality of countries' policy framework mattered little, however, in determining overall net transfers.

Ishac Diwan
October 23, 2002

Low Investment is Not the Constraint on African Development - Working Paper 13

While many analysts decry the lack of sufficient investment in Africa, we find no evidence that private and public investment are productive, either in Africa as a whole (unless Botswana is included in the sample), or in the manufacturing sector in Tanzania. In this restricted sense, inadequate investment is not the major obstacle to African economic development.

Shantayanan Devarajan , William R. Easterly and Howard Pack
September 1, 2002

Solutions when the Solution is the Problem: Arraying the Disarray in Development - Working Paper 10

The welfare of the poor turns in large measure not only on technocratic development "policies", but the effective delivery of key public services, core elements of which require thousands of face-to-face discretionary transactions ("practices") by service providers. This paper presents eight current proposals for improving service delivery, on the basis of a principal-agent model of incentives that explores how these various proposals change flows of resources, information, decision-making, delivery mechanisms, and accountability.

Michael Woolcock
August 1, 2002

An Identity Crisis? Testing IMF Financial Programming - Working Paper 9

The IMF uses its well-known "financial programming" model to derive monetary and fiscal programs to achieve desired macroeconomic targets in countries undergoing crises or receiving debt relief. Financial programming is based on monetary, balance of payments, and fiscal accounting identities. This paper subjects the identity-based framework to a variety of tests. All of the identities contain large statistical discrepancies, which weakens the case for them as a "consistency check." In addition, the financial programming approach is flawed because it does not take into account the endogeneity of virtually all the variables in each macroeconomic identity, the instability of its simple behavioral assumptions, and the large statistical discrepancies in all the identities. Accounting identities do not a macro model make.

August 1, 2002

Beyond TRIPS: A New Global Patent Regime

I present here a proposal for constructing a global patent regime, which could be a reasonable compromise to the current bitter dispute fueled by TRIPS. It allows the right line to be drawn between prices and incentives because different lines can be drawn for different products.

Jean Olson Lanjouw
June 1, 2002

Financial Crises and Poverty in Emerging Market Economies - Working Paper 8

This study examines the impact of the principal financial crises in emerging markets in recent years on the incidence of poverty in the countries in question. The growth impact is first identified by comparing average per capita growth in the two years prior to the crisis to that in the crisis year and the following year. The poverty impact is then measured by applying the elasticity of poverty with respect to growth. Alternative estimates consider results of surveys in the relevant periods, where available.

May 1, 2002

Winners and Losers: Assessing the Distributional Impacts of Privatization - Working Paper 6

While most technical assessments classify privatization as a success, it remains widely and increasingly unpopular, largely because of the perception that it is fundamentally unfair, both in conception and execution. We review the increasing (but still uneven) literature and conclude that most privatization programs appear to have worsened the distribution of assets and income, at least in the short run. This is more evident in transition economies than in Latin America, and less clear for utilities such as electricity and telecommunications, where the poor have tended to benefit from much greater access, than for banks, oil companies, and other natural resource producers.

John Nellis
February 2, 2002

External Advisors and Privatization in Transition Economies - Working Paper 3

This paper analyzes privatization and enterprise reform of three major countries in the transition region; Poland, Czechoslovakia (subsequently the Czech Republic), and the Soviet Union (subsequently Russia). For each, it discusses the prevailing ideologies of advisors prior to and during the transition process, the initial conditions faced by reformers and advisors, the policy frameworks that evolved, the results achieved, the mistakes made, and the opportunities missed.

John Nellis