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  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: China's economic growth has averaged 9½ per cent over the past two decades. The rapid pace of economic change is likely to be sustained for some time. These gains have contributed not only to higher personal incomes, but also to a significant reduction in poverty. At the same time, the economy has become substantially integrated with the world economy. A large part of these gains have come through profound shifts in government policies. Reforms have allowed market prices and private investors to play a significant role in production and trade.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Government, International Organization
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: China is the world's sixth largest economy and its most populous country, home to 1.3 billion people or 21% of the Earth's total population. But it faces a major challenge in providing its people with food – China has only 10% of the world's arable land and only one quarter of the average world water resources per person.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Civil Society, Economics
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Opening up agricultural markets to international trade has been one of the thorniest issues in successive rounds of global trade talks. Protection in agricultural trade is still high in both the developed and developing world, so agreement in agriculture is crucial to the success of the Doha Development Agenda talks in the World Trade Organization (WTO), particularly for developing countries who stand to make significant gains.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Development, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Brazil is a major player in the global economy, one of the world's 10 largest economies, with a population of 180 million and vast natural resources. Brazil's agricultural land is exceeded only by China, Australia and the United States, and agriculture plays an important role in the country's economy. Primary agriculture accounts for 8% of GDP, while agricultural products account for about 30% of exports.
  • Topic: International Relations, Agriculture, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Brazil, South America, Australia
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Improving the income situation of farm households remains a prominent objective of agricultural policies in many OECD countries. Concerns are often expressed in response to year over year declines in national farm income levels or to fluctuating world commodity prices. Increasingly, however, attention is moving away from such partial indicators of household well-being towards a more comprehensive concept of farm household income which encompasses all income sources available to family members as well as their accumulated wealth.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Civil Society, Development, Economics
  • Publication Date: 06-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: OECD governments have a long history of pursuing agricultural policies, with objectives ranging from supporting farm incomes to securing safe food and environmental quality. Policy measures are equally varied, including instruments such as import tariffs, export subsidies and a host of different government payments to farmers. Many of these policies share the common feature that they transfer money to farmers, and thereby impact on production decisions, incomes, international trade and the environment.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Development, Economics, Environment
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Road accidents are the number one killer of children in OECD countries. An estimated 100,000 children have died on the roads in the past 20 years – almost 100 per week on average. Of course, this level of fatalities is not acceptable. Road transport safety, particularly for children, should be a priority for all governments.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The economic downturn in the Netherlands, like the boom that preceded it, has been more marked than in most other European countries. This is partly attributable to greater exposure to international trade, especially with the US, and to greater sensitivity to international stock price movements. But there are also some structural policies – pension fund regulation, housing and wage setting institutions – that have undermined economic efficiency and contributed to the amplitude of the cycle. Furthermore there has been a marked deterioration in public finances, part of which is structural. Longer term growth trends too are unfavourable. In view of these developments, the main challenges are to reform those policies that have reduced efficiency and increased volatility, put public finances on a sustainable path, and, most importantly, increase trend growth by increasing both employment and productivity.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Netherlands
  • Author: Jude Fransman, Henri-Bernard Solignac Lecomte
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Citizens in OECD countries quite unambiguously support more solidarity and justice at the international level; however, despite the adoption of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by their governments in 2000, they remain insufficiently informed and educated about global development challenges. With increased understanding of the issues, citizens could provide greater support for more efficient and coherent development policies as well as for more funding. This requires new efforts by national authorities to report on desirable outcomes and on the results and effectiveness of international development policies towards achieving them.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Security in all its dimensions is fundamental to reducing poverty, protecting human rights and achieving the Millennium DevelopmentGoals (MDGs). Security concerns not only the stability of the state and the security of regimes. It also involves the safety, well-being and freedom from fear of a nation and its people.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Economic performance over the past two decades has been impressive. Underpinned by an increased reliance on competitive forces, which have been stronger than in most other member countries for some time, productivity and output have accelerated significantly. In recent years, helped by timely macroeconomic policy responses, the economy has demonstrated its capacity to adjust to adverse shocks, so that the per capita growth gap against other countries has widened further. The outlook is for this to continue in the next few years, with real GDP expanding by around 4 per cent per annum. Nonetheless, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed to sustain these laudable economic outcomes. By far the top priority is to confront the current and projected federal budget deficits. The fiscal stimulus of the past few years has been helpful in supporting the recovery, but if public dissaving is not reduced, interest rates may be higher, ultimately implying slower growth in economic potential. Increased budget discipline, and indeed significant reform on both the spending and revenue sides of the budget, will be necessary because of the impending demographic pressures on government finances. Corrective fiscal measures will also assist the unwinding of the current account deficit, which is unusually large for this stage of the cycle. As the Federal Reserve begins to move the federal funds rate back to a more neutral level, it will need to be especially attentive to the clarity of its communications with the markets. Further corporate-governance and accounting reforms would help to underpin confidence of domestic and foreign investors, thereby facilitating orderly current-account adjustment. Less reliance on import restrictions and maintaining a leadership role in trade liberalisation would favour structural adjustment at home. Furthermore, despite the generally pro-competitive thrust of antitrust and other regulatory policies, a number of areas deserve attention, notably intellectual property rights, telecommunications and electricity, where further reforms would be welfare enhancing.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Helmut Reisen
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which set clear targets for reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women by 2015.The need for additional development funding, if the MDGs are to be achieved by 2015, is widely recognized. The figure of additional $50 billion per year, roughly the present total of ODA spent by DAC donors, is often quoted (e.g. Zedillo Report). This estimate is of back-of-the-envelope nature, and it seems to be the minimum estimate. If governments exclude the option to abandon the MDGs, they have either to double the existing ODA or to find alternative sources of comparable magnitude–or a balance of the two. The challenge to the international community is mounting by the day.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: OECD countries are working hard to tackle the environmental problems they face, but much more ambitious policies will be needed if their national and international commitments are to be met. Progress has been made in a number of areas since OECD ministers agreed in 2001 on an Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century. For example, air pollution regulations have been tightened, new market-based policies to mitigate climate change at least cost are in place or planned, regulatory frameworks are being strengthened to protect the environment and human health from chemicals, and a number of key international agreements to protect the marine environment and ensure sustainable fishing have recently entered into force, thanks in part to their ratification by some OECD countries. But current policies are insufficient to adequately protect biodiversity resources, or to address climate change. Economic growth no longer leads automatically to an equal increase in pressure on the environment in some key sectors, indicating at least some “decoupling” of environmental pressures from economic growth, but the environmental impact of continuing road transport expansion, energy production, and agricultural practices remains high.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Water is a vital resource for society but needs to be managed carefully to ensure that people have access to affordable and safe drinking water and sanitation, without depleting water resources or damaging ecosystems. The OECD Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century, adopted by OECD ministers in 2001, highlights water management as one of the key issues in maintaining the integrity of ecosystems.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The short-term outlook for Norway is good. Helped by global recovery, growth could proceed at above potential rates for a while, especially as inflation is well below target and there is some cyclical slack in the labour market. Interest rates are low, and fiscal stimulus needs to be withdrawn. Indeed, it will be important to rein back spending over the next few years in order to get back onto the self-imposed track of permissible spending of oil revenues that is consistent with notions of intergenerational fairness. In the longer term, the case for continuing fiscal restraint is even stronger. Reflecting both demographic factors and the maturing of the system, public spending on pensions will rise considerably over the next decades, even if the major reforms now under discussion are quickly implemented. In the future, growth of living standards will have to rely primarily on increases of productivity and employment in the non-oil private business sector. To maintain vigour in the non-oil economy, reforms in both labour and product markets, and in social policies and transfer programmes are called for. There are important interdependencies among policies in these areas and it is unlikely that success will be achieved without advancing with comprehensive reforms. More flexibility is desirable in wage setting, particularly in the public sector. Proposed changes in the fields of education and training will raise skill levels, but value for money needs to be an important criterion when prioritising the programmes. Competition should be strengthened through regulatory reform and a more active policy stance: proposed amendments to strengthen the enforcement framework are an opportunity to make competition policy more central, and should include an independent appellate body. State ownership and subsidies to agriculture should be reduced. Norway's comprehensive social programmes ensure that poverty is virtually non-existent, and a strong work ethic and a high level of social trust led to comparatively little abuse in the past. However, the very rapid rises in numbers on disability pensions and on sick leave suggest that stricter controls are needed. Advancing the reform efforts suggested above will be necessary to harness the more efficient use of resources, thereby raising non-oil potential output and ensuring that Norway maintains a high standard of living in the years to come.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Norway
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Most OECD countries have been actively reforming their public sectors for two decades. Initially the problem seemed to be a relatively straightforward one of improving efficiency, reforming management practices, and divesting public involvement in commercial enterprises. These reforms have indeed had a major impact but they have also given rise to some unexpected problems of their own. Even a seemingly straightforward action such as simplifying a welfare benefit form and cutting the time taken to process it may, for example, encourage more people to apply for the benefit, increasing the workload and making it more difficult to cut waiting time. While more efficient government is certainly desirable, efficiency alone is not a guarantee of better government.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The quality of the teaching workforce is a major consideration in any nation's aspirations for an educational system of high quality. Teachers form the core of the school system and a wide range of research studies has confirmed the importance of teacher quality for student learning. Thus, the development of policies seeking to improve the quality of teachers and ensure that all students receive quality teaching is a central concern for governments.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: To succeed in a rapidly changing world, individuals need to advance their knowledge and skills throughout their lives. Education systems need to lay strong foundations for this, by fostering knowledge and skills and strengthening the capacity and motivation of young adults to continue learning beyond school.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: For a more equitable society, all individuals, independently of their socio-economic background, origin and gender, should ideally have access to equivalent learning opportunities; those with organic disabilities, learning difficulties or social disadvantages should benefit from specific support; and finally, improving outcomes of all learners, and especially those who are less successful, should be a permanent objective of all educational systems.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The concept of lifelong learning as an educational strategy emerged some three decades ago, through the efforts of the OECD, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. It was a response to the anomaly that while individuals learn throughout life, the provision of education opportunities was limited largely to the early phase of life, dominated by formal education. There was a perceived need to provide a “second chance” to those who did not benefit from educational opportunities available during childhood and youth.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Author: Charles Oman, Steven Fries, Willem Buiter
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Corporate governance was long ignored as a matter of potential importance for the development of a nation's economy. It remained virtually invisible as a development policy issue until the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, followed closely by those in Russia and Brazil, drew attention to the problems of “crony capitalism” and their perceived relationship to poor local corporategovernance practices in several emerging-market economies. Yet as the perceived threat to global financial markets raised by those crises recedes and international pressures to strengthen corporate governance in emerging markets weaken, the danger is that local efforts significantly to improve corporate governance in the developing, transition and emerging-market economies will flag.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The metropolitan region of Montreal (Metropolitan Montreal) is Canada's second most populous area after Toronto, and is home to almost 3.5 million people. With its low costs, high quality of life, and wide range of industrial, cultural, educational, and social strengths, Montreal has a vibrant and dynamic economy, but its diversity and complexity can lead to institutional isolation and fragmented decision- making.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Canada
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Slovakia is engaged in an ambitious reform process which has a potential to quicken productivity growth, increase the employment rate and accelerate the catching-up to the per capita income levels of more advanced OECD countries. Short-term outcomes may be demanding socially and politically, but stimulus to growth and job-creation should help overcome the hardship. Policymakers should fully enforce the new framework for creating and doing business and support it with the full force of law. Human capital enrichment for new entrants through education reform is critical, while intensified re-training for the long-term unemployed is also indispensable, including for the Roma population. Demand for labour will be stimulated by the planned reductions in employment costs in the low end of the market, as well as by the fundamental tax reforms raising the return to enterprise creation and development. Further cuts in social contributions, which remain among the highest among OECD countries, should be a priority. The reform of the public spending system, which is already well engaged, should facilitate such additional cuts and help promote a smaller and more effective government. Continuing efforts of fiscal consolidation will improve the macroeconomic policy mix and help maintain supportive monetary conditions in the face of currency appreciation pres- sures from EU accession, and will help meet the Maastricht nominal convergence rules on a sustainable basis prior to euro area participation. The nominal flexibility of wages and prices should be conserved in order to preserve the competitiveness of the economy, notably of the domestic manufacturing and service firms. By sticking to this multi-pronged policy agenda, Slovakia would make its growth process more balanced and more job-rich and would accelerate further its already successful catching-up process.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Slovakia
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: With sound monetary and fiscal frameworks and a good macroeconomic position, Sweden is better placed to face the longer-term challenges of an ageing population than many other OECD countries. As elsewhere, these demographic trends will put downwardpressure on growth in potential output and increase burdens on public expenditure over time. Managing this situation effectively within the welfare state approach while enjoying the highest possible living standards will be easier if the country can raise productivity growth, expand the effective labour supply, and get public finances quickly back onto their intended medium-term path. Productivity growth could be boosted further by increasing the pressures from competition in all parts of the economy, building on earlier liberalisation efforts. Effectively addressing cartels and other anti-competitive behaviour, removing regulatory obstacles and further exposing the large public sector to competition would all help. Productivity growth could also be raised if workers and capital moved more quickly and easily in response to shifts in costs and demand for different outputs. However, taking the rewards for productivity improvements in the form of lower working hours diminishes the tax base; further reductions in high marginal tax rates would reduce the incentive to do so. Although employment rates are already high overall, more could be done to get young people qualified and into the workforce earlier and to improve the integration of immigrants. Reducing the numbers of people drawing sickness and disability benefits will not only boost effective labour supply but also help ease expenditure pressures. More generally, tight expenditure restraint will be necessary to attain the government's surplus target. The budget framework could be refined in ways that would help to ensure that public finances are sustainable in the long term, while also providing room to moderate marginal tax rates in order to boost incentives to work, save and invest. Further progress towards environmental sustainability could focus on improving the cost-effectiveness of policies. Ultimately, creating faster growth and maintaining the welfare state depend on continuation of far-sighted economic management.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Sweden
  • Publication Date: 01-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Although trend growth of GDP has been meagre for two decades (1.25 per cent against 2.75 per cent for the OECD average), per capita income in Switzerland remains among the highest in the OECD. In recent years, output growth was less resilient than in most other OECD countries, with the economy being in recession during the first semester of 2003. This is partly due to the global slump in the financial and capital goods sectors which are very important for the Swiss economy, but the unsatisfactory growth performance is largely attributable to the timid pace of structural reforms over many years. Against this background, there are three major challenges for economic policy.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Switzerland
  • Publication Date: 01-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: For Hungary to maintain strong growth, macroeconomic policy has to aim for sound and sustainable public finances, low inflation and maintaining the competitiveness of its FDI-driven export sector. Fiscal consolidation has to focus on lasting structural reforms, which bring down the volume of government expenditure in a sustainable way. Revenue increases buy time for the 2004 budget, but thistime has to be used to implement measures that will durably reduce spending in a medium-term framework. The difficult balancing act for monetary policy between achieving inflation targets and steering the exchange rate for entry into the euro zone could be made easier if fiscal targets are achieved. The move to base future budgets on the joint inflation target is a welcome step to improve co-ordination between the government and the Central Bank and should be continued. In wage setting, the indicative wage guidelines should be used to communicate disinflation in the runup to EMU, and thereby limit the risk of unintended real wage increases. Wage moderation should also be assisted by measures which increase the supply responsiveness of labour. Any room created for tax cuts should be used to reduce Hungary's large tax wedge on labour, which interacts negatively with some social benefit programmes. Large regional disparities should be addressed by measures which increase labour mobility and broaden investment across regions through further improved infrastructure. Business conditions can be further improved by addressing the low level of competition in some network industries and more generally improving the conditions for market entry in the domestic sector. The considerable costs of programmes to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and also more local air pollutants could be reduced with the wider application of economic instruments. Hungary will only be able to reap the full benefits of European Union accession and EMU entry if it establishes a sound macroeconomic framework, boosts labour force participation and sustains high productivity growth.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Hungary
  • Publication Date: 01-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Science and technology exert a growing influence on society and the economy. Scientific achievements continue to expand the frontiers of knowledge and increasingly contribute to the technological progress that affects how people live and work. New science-based technologies help protect the environment, build safer homes, schools and factories, and develop energy- saving transport systems. Advances in genetics save lives and improve health standards throughout the world. Industries based on new technologies employ millions of highly skilled workers in the OECD and beyond. Information and communications technologies (ICT) have enhanced their productivity and made it possible for a greater number of individuals, firms and countries to take part in the knowledge-based economy.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 01-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The performance of the UK economy has been impressive in recent years, underpinned by wide-ranging structural reforms and sound macroeconomic policy frameworks. The OECD projects growth above potential in 2004 and 2005, with unemployment remaining low, but instability stemming from the housing market is a risk. Monetary policy should continue to tighten to reduce future inflationary pressures and the risk of a further sharp rise in house prices from becoming a potential source of fragility. At the same time, the current rigidity of house supply should be eased by reforming land planning, while a reform of the regressive council tax could help to reduce the risk of housing market instability. Over the projection period, government spending will continue to rise as a share of GDP, reflecting the government's ambitious targets in priority areas. Slowing spending growth may be warranted on efficiency grounds: bottlenecks have become apparent, while time is needed to pilot new innovative approaches. More generally, getting incentives right is essential to meet the ambitious service targets. Slowing spending growth would also benefit the public finances. An income-contingent contribution scheme for university graduates is an equitable way forward; other forms of user charges not compromising equity concerns could improve efficiency. Both are preferable to raising taxes. Trend growth has already been boosted by the sharp decline in structural unemployment, but measures are still needed to reduce the number of inactive, especially those on incapacity benefit. While educational performance of students has risen, policy needs to further address the lack of vocational skills as one element in a strategy to reduce the productivity gap with the best performers elsewhere. In this respect, competition is also important. The government has strengthened the competition framework and active enforcement along with the market studies of the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission's market investigations should help to ensure that markets become more competitive. However, planning restrictions and market power are a problem in the retail sector and industry regulators will need to remain vigilant in the electricity, gas and telecom sectors. Ensuring macroeconomic stability, while addressing the remaining weaknesses through further structural reforms offers the prospect of continuing strong economic performance.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Democratic governments want policies that are in the best interest of their citizens. But how can they - and their voters - be sure they are making the right choices? One answer is by learning from the tried and tested experience of others. One of the OECD's core strengths is its ability to offer its 30 members a framework to examine and compare experiences and discuss "best practices" in a host of areas from economic policy to environmental protection or strategies to create jobs.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Past macroeconomic and structural reforms have been contributing to stronger growth for the last decade. The economy has also become more resilient, weathering the recent global slowdown well. Productivity growth has picked up, although not by enough to have yet moved New Zealand up the OECD income rankings. Its small size and remoteness may be factors, so encouraging global linkages is important, but more remains to be done to strengthen fundamentals. Recent economic performance has been encouraging: buoyant domestic demand has helped maintain output growth in spite of weak trading partner growth, an appreciating exchange rate and a fall in the terms of trade from recent high levels. Monetary policy will need to be vigilant, given that the economy is probably operating above potential and the housing market is strong. In considering fiscal policy options, the focus should be on those that contribute to the growth performance of the economy, whilst remaining firmly based on a prudent assessment of future revenues and of the long-term challenges connected to ageing. In its growth strategy the government appropriately emphasises fostering innovation, skills and talent, and developing global linkages, but it should maintain a level playing field and avoid sector-specific incentives. It should continue to remove regulatory obstacles to investment, particularly in the area of infrastructure, by improving and speeding up the environmental consent process. The decision to resume cutting tariffs is commendable and also furthers the objective of supporting development in poorer countries. Immigration helps to enlarge the pool of available skills and to develop global connections, both of which contribute to enhancing growth potential. Recent changes that focus admis- sions policy more toward skilled and more employ- able immigrants will help, though the temptation to link immigration policy too closely to manpower plan- ning should be resisted. The labour market functions reasonably well, but the government should avoid measures that would reduce flexibility and raise labour costs. The employment rates of marginal groups could be improved by strengthening incentives to move from welfare to work. In short, only through this whole range of efforts to boost productivity growth and improve labour market outcomes can the nation meet its income aspirations.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: New Zealand
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The current economic upturn does not diminish the urgency of continuing with fundamental reforms to lay the foundation for a robust and sustainable expansion strong enough to reverse the downward trend in Japanese living standards relative to other OECD countries and to restore price stability after nearly eight years of deflation. Given the negative implications of falling prices, the Bank of Japan should strengthen its quantitative easing policy by further expanding the range of assets it purchases. In addition, the effectiveness of monetary policy depends critically on resolving the problems in the banking and corporate sectors. The authorities should follow through on the objective of substantially reducing non-performing loans and revitalising the corporate sector, while ensuring that banks are adequately capitalised, using public money if necessary. Moreover, it is important to scale back the role of government financial institutions. Given the likely negative impact of accelerated bank and corporate-sector restructuring on activity and the need to ensure that the recovery is not ended prematurely, excessive fiscal policy tightening should be avoided, while any increase in revenue due to buoyant activity should be used to reduce the deficit. Achieving the moderate fiscal consolidation projected for 2004 is a key to building confidence in the longer-term sustainability of public finances, which also requires a credible consolidation plan for 2005 and the years beyond, including measures to limit spending and boost tax revenues. Moreover, it is essential to prevent increases in spending as a share of GDP, an objective that requires reform of pension and health care pro- grammes in the face of rapid population ageing. Given the constraints on macroeconomic policy, a successful programme to revitalise the economy will require a broad programme of structural reform, focused on strengthening competition to boost consumer welfare and improve the allocation of resources. To achieve such an outcome, competition policy should be improved by making the Fair Trade Commission stronger and more effective and by creating a framework conducive to competition in network industries that have been liberalised, such as telecommunications and energy. Expanded international trade, greater inflows of direct investment and removal of outdated regulations - accelerated through the recently created special zones - also have important roles to play in boosting competition. In sum, a broad-ranging programme of carefully designed macroeconomic policies and far-reaching structural reforms to enhance Japan's growth potential is needed.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Japan
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Bribing public officials to obtain international business raises serious moral and political concerns, undermines good governance and economic development, and distorts international competitive conditions.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play a key role in development and poverty reduction. ICTs can help promote economic growth, expand economic and social opportunity, make institutions and markets more efficient and responsive, and make it easier for the poor to obtain access to resources and services. It can also make it easier to make the voices of the poor heard in the decisions that shape their lives.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: A stable institutional framework in Chile has provided the foundations for growth and confidence of international markets. While a comprehensive social agenda is putting pressure on resources under the recent economic slow-down, the Chilean government should be praised for having maintained a sound fiscal and monetary stance and building on its unique institutional framework based on the freedom of choice. The current challenges are to strengthen the coherence of this development policy agenda with a vision to long-term growth and broader social consensus. Chile is a small open economy, for which international competitiveness is the cornerstone for sustainable growth. The latter is the outcome of the multiple policy synergies discussed above. The first important link is to continue preserving a sound macroeconomic framework avoiding distortions that may produce excessive real exchange rate appreciation, which could hinder the incentives to invest and expand employment in the tradable sector. The deepening of financial intermediation and development of risk capital are needed to support the emergence of new and more innovative firms. A better functioning of the labour market is critical to the development of the enterprise sector. In particular increased female labour participation would support the development of light industries and services. Investment in human capital, in particular education and workers' training, is needed to develop products with a higher technological content. The administrative conditions and regulation of product markets should also be improved, notably by reducing administrative barriers to enterprise creation and removing distortions in the tax treatment of cross-border interenterprise financial flows. These policy link-ages would help increase product variety and intra-industry trade that could contribute to reduce the vulnerabilities associated with an excessive reliance on natural resources and export concentration. In all these areas of reform, Chile is now in a position to emulate and converge towards the more advanced benchmark of OECD countries.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Chile
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Trade and investment, coupled with transfers of knowledge and technology and an appropriate institutional framework, have been major engines of global economic growth in developed and developing countries over the past 50 years. From the mid-1980s, the pace of global economic integration and growth accelerated significantly. Sustaining global economic growth and achieving a better sharing of its benefits will further the interests of all countries, developing and developed alike. Recognising this, the international community has committed itself to specific Millennium Development Goals and to ways of achieving them.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Fiscal rectitude, progress towards macroeconomic stabilisation, and past structural reforms have been necessary and desirable, but have not yet been sufficient to raise potential growth to rates that would allow closing the gap in living standards with other OECD countries. Prolonged cyclical weakness, with no unambiguous signs yet of a vigorous upturn, has depressed private investment, which is also hampered by legal and regulatory obstacles in key sectors, electricity in particular. Mexico's catching-up is further hindered by low human capital accumulation. The administration has insufficiently solid and stable revenue to finance necessary social spending and public infrastructure investment on the required scale. Policies should therefore give priority to broadening the tax base and creating conditions - economic, financial and legal - in which a competitive private sector has the ability and incentives to invest more. It is also important to spend more productively in areas such as education; efforts there should concentrate on making the existing school system, and the teaching body, more effective, and on allocating more resources to the training of adults. Although the large informal sector provides a kind of safety valve for many of the low-skilled, the formal sector must become a more attractive place in the longer term in which to work and to employ. Emigration also provides a safety valve, and remittances lift many households out of acute poverty. A migration agreement between the United States and Mexico would bring benefits to both. Levels of water and air pollution are unacceptably high in Mexican urban areas, and though policies are addressing this, the (implicit or explicit) pricing of natural resources and of polluting activities is far from optimal. Overall, Mexico needs to move ahead with comprehensive structural reforms, including most immediately approval of the tax, electricity and labour reforms, so as to fully release the country's growth potential and provide resources to deal with important issues of human capital and poverty relief.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Violent conflict undoubtedly affects West Africa's prospects for economic development and integration. However, the nature of these effects is still poorly understood. As part of the SWAC regional programme on conflict and stability, the SWAC Secretariat undertook a literature review and an electronic consultation of southern and northern agencies and specialists in summer 2003. This aimed to assess the economic consequences of violent conflict at multiple levels; identify operational lessons on how best to deal with these effects; and highlight key areas for further work where the SWAC can add value. The core findings of the review are presented in this note.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: West Africa
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Health is higher on the international agenda than ever before and improving the health of poor people is a central issue in development. Poor people suffer worse health and die younger. They have higher than average child and maternal mortality, higher levels of disease, and more limited access to healthcare and social protection. But health is also a crucially important economic asset, particularly for poor people. Their livelihoods depend on it. When poor people become ill or injured, their entire household can become trapped in a downward spiral of lost income and high healthcare costs.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: To raise Austria's growth potential, significant changes in the institutional set-up will be necessary in order to achieve sound public finances, higher labour force participation - in particular among older workers - and to open up the sheltered sectors of the economy to healthy competition. Although the government's emphasis on structural spending reductions to achieve eventual budget balance while also creating room for tax cuts is appropriate, earlier fiscal easing means that under current plans budget balance will be restored only after 2007. Such a deficit path is not appropriate given Austria's high debt-to-GDP ratio. Stronger spending restraint will be necessary in order to create room for the major tax reform that the authorities are committed to. Public expenditure reform is focused on reducing public sector employment, but the cost savings are eroded by the generous early retirement programmes used to achieve these employment reductions. Comprehensive public sector reform has to address the complicated -federal fiscal relationships and make sure that tasks are allocated to the most appropriate private or public agent. More cost-benefit analysis and output performance budgeting would help to improve the efficiency with which public resources are used. The pension reform undertaken by the government marks considerable progress in moving to sustainable old-age income replacement through measures designed to increase further the labour force participation rate of older workers and women and lengthen working lives considerably. Further necessary action includes measures to improve the employability of older workers, in particular the elimination of excessive seniority wage components, and a more stringent revision of the remaining age-specific employment protection regulation. The large differences in economic performance between manufacturing, which is fully exposed to international competition, and services points to considerable scope for increasing competition by reducing entry barriers and facilitating the operations of the newly established competition authority. Proceeding along these lines will help Austria to realise the positive potential associated with Eastern enlargement while at the same time becoming more resilient to adverse supply side shocks.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Austria
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: OECD countries have recently agreed to a positive reform agenda for agricultural policies. Central to this agenda is the need to set out clearly the objectives of agricultural policies, and to monitor the performance of alternative policies in attaining them. In most cases, the best way to achieve an objective is to target it directly. Thus, where agriculture is deemed to provide public services, such as a pleasing countryside or environmental benefits, any required support for those services could be provided directly, rather than through policies that stimulate output. Conversely, environmental degradation could be taxed or regulated at source. Where agricultural households have low incomes, there may be a case for policies that concentrate benefits among poorer households, as opposed to blanket support measures that pay more to larger (and typically wealthier) farmers and to landowners. Reform along these lines would improve the cost-effectiveness of government programmes, and would greatly reduce disruptions to international markets. At the same time, not everyone will gain from reform, at least in the short term. There may therefore be a need for temporary adjustment assistance for farm households that are negatively affected. The broader opportunities to improve economic well-being call for policies that respond explicitly to a more diverse range of societal interests.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, International Trade and Finance
  • Publication Date: 04-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The urban water sector presents difficult economic and political choices for governments. The provision of water and sanitation services has undoubtedly reduced disease and yielded other health benefits. Free or cheap access to water has also spurred a variety of other uses from maintaining lawns to washing cars. At the same time, this sector is plagued by a long history of under-pricing, and opposition to full cost pricing for ethical and social reasons. These factors have contributed to the unwillingness of many governments to acknowledge water as a finite natural resource and an economic good – a commodity that needs a market price reflecting the cost of provision and its true value to society.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Government, Industrial Policy
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: There is widespread concern that poor water management will be one of the major factors limiting sustainable development during the next few decades. Water shortages are common in many regions, and are exacerbated by the pollution or degradation of many water bodies. There are conflicting demands for available water resources, both between human, economic, and ecosystem needs and between regions sharing a single water basin, in some cases leading to geopolitical security threats. World population roughly doubled over the last 50 years, while water consumption worldwide quadrupled. With urban populations growing faster than rural populations, the financial pressures on urban water utilities are intensifying.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy