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  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Besides highlighting Assad’s financial mismanagement, the recent unrest gives the international community a genuine opportunity to push for transition while bolstering the more prosperous local administration in the northeast. Since mid-January, shop owners, government employees, students, and even children have been gathering in the streets of various Syrian communities to express their frustration with the Assad regime’s economic policies and untruths. Although the protests remain small for now, the fact that they have persistently carried on in the middle of regime-controlled territory highlights Bashar al-Assad’s potential vulnerability on these issues. In Suwayda, a Druze-majority province in the south, residents have protested the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound/lira and the deteriorating economic situation in general. In the central-western town of Salamiya, protestors were seen chanting “we want to live.” And in the Suwayda town of Shahba, demonstrators raised loaves of bread in the air while openly criticizing Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political and media advisor. The latter protest was partly spurred by a recent interview on the pro-Assad television network al-Mayadeen, where Shaaban not only claimed that the country’s current economy is “fifty times better than what it was in 2011,” but also declared that “Syrians are self-sufficient in everything.” In response, protestors sarcastically noted that her comments referred to her own household’s economy, not Syria’s. Elsewhere, former agriculture minister Nour al-Din Manna described Shaaban’s remarks about the war-torn country as “hard to believe,” and a closer look at the country’s finances supports this disbelief.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Syrian War, Currency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Judit Fabian
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: International trade is often framed in starkly divergent terms: either countries choose multilateral trade agreements (MTAs) and advance the cause of global economic liberalization, or they choose preferred trade agreements (PTAs) and put the entire system at risk. Canada has a long track record of pursuing PTAs and with the Trump administration’s opposition to multilateralism, and longstanding opposition in elements of the Republican and Democratic parties, this trend will likely continue. The question is whether progress will come at the expense of the global trade system. Some economists believe PTAs to be trade-diverting, reducing trade with more efficient producers outside the agreement. Others insist that PTAs can create trade by shifting production to lower-cost producers in one of the participating countries. One prominent contrary argument holds that PTAs lead to discontinuities in tariff regimes between countries and regions, increasing transaction costs, disrupting supply chains, creating opportunities for corruption and harming global welfare, especially in developing nations. While debate continues about the effects of PTAs, a closer examination suggests that worries are overblown about their negative impacts on global trade flows. Evidence indicates that they support rather than harm the international trading system. Countries shut out of PTAs are more motivated to seek out agreements in new markets, increasing liberalization overall. They may also seek a reduction in most-favoured nation (MFN) tariffs, which would deprive PTAs of their major tariff benefits. Studies have found complementarity between preferential and MFN tariffs, revealing that PTAs promote external trade liberalization. Even if a PTA reduces a given country’s incentive to push for multilateral liberalization, it raises the odds of that country liberalizing its trade to avoid getting left behind. PTAs are a response to the difficulties of securing sweeping multilateral agreements. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements authorize them under GATT Article XXIV, GATS Article V, and the enabling clause, and the WTO facilitates a degree of governance over PTAs through its dispute settlement process. Over the past 25 years, countries have adopted these deals at a rapid pace. Between 1994 and 2005, the number of PTAs increased from 50 to 200. By April 2018, 336 were in effect. At the same time, global trade has increased significantly. Between 1994 and 2010, the volume of world merchandise exports more than doubled. The proliferation of PTAs has resulted in a rise in international trade governance, because the countries involved shape their relationships in line with the WTO agreements. This juridification makes PTAs subordinate to the international system rather than giving them room to dissolve it. Canada should therefore have no fear of pursuing PTAs within the larger framework of the effort to achieve multilateral trade liberalization.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Governance, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Rawi Abdelal, Aurélie Bros
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Sanctions have become the dominant tool of statecraft of the United States and other Western states, especially the European Union, since the end of the Cold War. But the systematic use of this instrument may produce unintended and somewhat paradoxical geopolitical consequences. The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the field of energy are particularly illustrative of this phenomenon.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Secondary Sanctions, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nathan Nunn
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: In this brief, I discuss the current state of economic development policy, which tends to focus on interventions, usually funded with foreign aid, that are aimed at fixing deficiencies in developing countries. The general perception is that there are inherent problems with less-developed countries that can be fixed by with the help of the Western world. I discuss evidence that shows that the effects of such ‘help’ can be mixed. While foreign aid can improve things, it can also make things worse. In addition, at the same time that this ‘help’ is being offered, the developed West regularly undertakes actions that are harmful to developing countries. Examples include tariffs, antidumping duties, restrictions on international labor mobility, the use of international power and coercion, and tied-aid used for export promotion. Overall, it is unclear whether interactions with the West are, on the whole, helpful or detrimental to developing countries. We may have our largest and most positive effects on alleviating global poverty if we focus on restraining ourselves from actively harming less-developed countries rather than focusing our efforts on fixing them.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Political Economy, Developing World, Economic Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, now seventy-nine years old, has no children and no announced successor, with only an ambiguous mechanism in place for the family council to choose one. This study considers the most likely candidates to succeed the sultan, Oman’s domestic economic challenges, and whether the country’s neutral foreign policy can survive Qaboos’s passing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Domestic politics, Succession
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Sexual Violence Research Initiative
  • Abstract: Poverty is a risk factor associated with gender-based violence; it also often intersects with and reinforces gender inequality. Various microfinance and other economic empowerment approaches have been implemented to try to address this intersection.
  • Topic: Economics, Gender Issues, Poverty, Women, Gender Based Violence , Microcredit
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Egypt, Global Focus
  • Author: Benjamin Augé
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: In 2017, the coming to power of João Lourenço put an end to nearly four decades of rule by the former head of state, José Eduardo Dos Santos. João Lourenço’s first objective was to strengthen his authority by appointing people close to him and cadres from the old regime, who had professed loyalty to him, to high office. The speed of the takeover of all the decision-making centers – army, intelligence services, state-owned companies, oil industry and above all the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) party-state – by the new “Comrade Number One” surprised the leaders of the Dos Santos era, some of whom were abruptly dismissed or even sentenced to prison. Now firmly established in Angola’s command centers, João Lourenço is however facing a serious economic crisis, the most worrying for the country since the end of the civil war in 2002.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Africa, Angola
  • Author: Enea Gjoza
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Defense Priorities
  • Abstract: The American economy, dollar, and banking system create unparalleled power for the U.S. in the global financial system. This power provides disproportionate influence over the world’s key economic and financial institutions, regulatory authority over major foreign companies and banks, and allows borrowing on favorable terms and in dollars, enabling long-term deficit spending.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Hegemony, Sanctions, Finance, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE)
  • Abstract: Chinese investment is flowing fast into Uganda, and spreading into the agriculture and forestry sectors. The government needs to keep pace with these developments so the benefits can be shared by Ugandans. A new analysis shows that, while the jobs and new businesses created are well received, the working conditions and environmental practices of Chinese companies are often poor. Many people evicted from their land to make way for new projects have not been compensated. To hold Chinese companies to account, government agencies, with support from NGOs, must share information about these investments and introduce stronger regulation — in particular to uphold community rights. In turn, Chinese companies must be more transparent, responsible and legally compliant. With a proactive and accountable strategy for Chinese investment management, Uganda could make major gains for sustainable development.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Foreign Direct Investment, Business , Accountability, Investment, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Africa, China
  • Author: Ebaidalla M. Ebaidalla
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
  • Abstract: Despite the importance of non-farm income in the livelihood of the rural population in Sudan, information available on its size and determinants is scant. This study examined the patterns and determinants of decisions to participate in non-farm activities in rural Sudan. It also investigates whether the determinants of participation in non-farm activities vary across agriculture sub-sectors and income groups as well as among males and females. The data for this study was sourced from the Sudanese National Baseline Household Survey (NBHS) conducted by Sudan’s Central Bureau of Statistics in 2009. The results show that non-farm income is a crucial source of livelihood, contributing about 43% to household income in rural Sudan. The results of multinomial logit and probit estimation methods indicate that educational level, mean of transportation, lack of land and lack of access to formal credit are the most significant factors that push rural farmers to participate in non-farm activities. Surprisingly, the effect of household income was positive and significant, implying that individuals from rich households have higher opportunity to engage in non-farm activities compared to their poor counterparts. Moreover, the analysis revealed some symptoms of gender and location disparities in the effect of factors that influence participation in non-farm activities. The study concluded with some recommendations that aim to enhance the engagement in non-farm activities as an important diversification strategy to complement the role of the agriculture sector in improving rural economy in Sudan.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Gender Issues, Income Inequality, Rural
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Isaac Bentum-Ennin
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
  • Abstract: Given Ghana’s endowments such as attractive sites; more than 500km of beaches, and World Heritage forts and castles, tourism is seen as an important tool for promoting the socio-economic development in that it generates many economic benefits such as incomes, employment and tax revenue, both within the sector and through linkages with other sectors. This study first, analyses the factors influencing the upward trends in international tourists’ arrivals and receipts and second, quantifies the impact of the tourism sector on the Ghanaian economy. The objective of this policy brief is to inform the Ministers of Interior, Tourism and Finance that the most important factor influencing international tourists’ arrivals in Ghana is the prevailing civil liberties and political rights and that Nigeria is a significant substitute destination. Also, that the tourism sector has had the greatest impact on the whole Ghanaian economy when compared to sectors such as agriculture, industry and other services sectors. It is hoped that appropriate legislations will be passed to deepen these liberties and rights and that policy measures will be put in place to ensure macroeconomic stability in order not to lose competitiveness to Nigeria. Also, it is hoped that the Tourism Ministry would lobby for more investment and more resources from the Finance Ministry in order to expand the sector since it has a huge potential to stimulate economic growth.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Development, Economics, International Political Economy, Tourism, Economic growth, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ghana
  • Author: Ibrahim Okumu, Faizal Buyinza
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
  • Abstract: Using the 2013 World Bank Enterprise Survey data for Uganda, this paper employs the quintile estimation technique to explain the relationship between innovation and firm performance in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Innovation involves the introduction of a new or significantly improved production process, product, marketing technique or organizational structure. Our results indicate that individual processing, product, marketing and organizational innovations have no impact on labour productivity as proxied by sales per worker. However, the results indicate the presence of complementarity between the four types of innovation. Specifically, the effect of innovation on sales per worker is positive when an SME engages in all four types of innovation. Even then the complementarity is weakly positive with incidences of a negative relationship when using any combination of innovations that are less than the four types of innovation. Policy-wise the results suggest that efforts to incentivize innovation should be inclusive enough to encourage all four forms of innovation.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Political Economy, Economic growth, Economic Policy
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Africa
  • Author: Janvier Mwisha-Kasiwa
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
  • Abstract: Health is both a direct component of human well-being and a form of human capital that increases an individual’s capabilities and opportunities to generate income and reduces vulnerability. It is argued that these two views are complementary, and both can be used to justify increased investment in health in developing countries. Therefore, investment in child health constitutes a potential mechanism to end the intergenerational transmission of poverty. This paper examines the empirical impact of household economic well-being on child health, and the gender differences in effects using the Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2014. A series of econometric tools are used; the control function approach appears to be the most appropriate strategy as it simultaneously removes structural parameters from endogeneity, the sample selection and heterogeneity of the unobservable variables. Results suggest a significant positive effect of household economic well-being on child health. However, the magnitude of the effect varies by gender of household head; children from households headed by males appear healthier compared to those from female-headed households. In the context of DR Congo, female-headed households often have a single parent, therefore, the economic well-being effect on child health in the male sub-sample can be considered to include the unobserved contribution of women. These results have implications for public interventions that enable women to participate in paid labour market activities as a means of improving household economic well-being, which in turn could improve child health.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Gender Issues, Health, Health Care Policy, Children
  • Political Geography: Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Author: Lassana Cissokho
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
  • Abstract: This paper investigates the productivity effects of power outages on manufacturing Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Senegal, using a panel data on manufacturing firms. Productivity is estimated using stochastic frontier models, and power outages measured by their frequency or their duration. We controlled for firms owning a generator as well. The main results are drawn from random effects in a linear panel model. Nonetheless, the results remain consistent to the robustness checks using different models: a double-sided truncated data model and a generalized linear model, and different productivity measures: data envelopment analysis. We find that power outages have negative significant effects on the productivity of SMEs; for example, the manufacturing sector lost up to around 11.6% of the actual productivity due to power outages in 2011, and small firms appear to be affected more than medium ones, 5% against 4.3%. Further, firms with a generator were successful in countering the adverse effect of power outages on productivity. Besides, another outstanding result is the significant positive effect of access to credit on productivity. At last, it appears that productivity increases with firms’ size.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Political Economy, Economic structure, Economic growth, Macroeconomics, Manufacturing
  • Political Geography: Africa, Senegal
  • Author: Eme Dada
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
  • Abstract: The objective of this policy brief is to inform the Ministers of Trade and Investment of Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) countries about the importance of the linkage between Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and trade for developing countries. FDI is considered an important means of promoting export of the host countries. This is true of inward FDI, which comes for efficiency reasons. Conversely, there is concern that large flows of outward FDI results in a decline in the host country’s exports and loss of jobs. This in turn assumes that the exports of the source country will fall as FDI substitutes for trade.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Foreign Direct Investment, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Gambia
  • Author: Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik, Gabriel Zucman
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: We live in an age of astonishing inequality. Income and wealth disparities between the rich and the poor in the United States have risen to heights not seen since the gilded age in the early part of the 20th century, and are among the highest in the developed world. Median wages for American workers remain at 1970s levels. Fewer and fewer among newer generations can expect to do better than their parents. Organizational and technological changes and globalization have fueled great wealth accumulation among those able to take advantage of them, but have left large segments of the population behind. U.S. life expectancy has declined for the third year in a row in 2017, and the allocation of healthcare looks both inefficient and unfair. Advances in automation and digitization threaten even greater labor market disruptions in the years ahead. Climate change fueled disasters increasingly disrupt everyday life. Greater prosperity and inclusion both seem attainable, yet the joint target recedes ever further.
  • Topic: Economics, Capitalism, Inequality, Economic Policy, Economic Theory
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Anat R. Admati
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: The financial system is fragile and distorted because current rules fail to counter the distorted incentives by banking institutions to borrow excessively and to remain opaque. Better-designed rules to reduce the reliance on debt and ensure that institutions use significantly more equity would enable the financial system to serve society better. Revising counterproductive tax and bankruptcy codes that, together with the extensive safety net offered to the financial system currently encourage dangerous conduct, would also be beneficial.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Finance, Economic Policy, Economic Theory, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Sandra E. Black, Jesse Rothstein
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: While private provision of goods often yields the efficient outcome, there are a number of goods that are not efficiently provided in the private market. Here, we outline two such situations: investments in child care and education, and insurance against risks created by business cycles, poor health, and old age. Because private markets work poorly for these goods, and the costs of market failure are large, standard economic reasoning implies a significant role for government provision. The reduction in economic insecurity that this would bring could help to improve political stability as well, by reducing the stakes that people perceive in discussions of trade, immigration, technological change, and countercyclical policy (Inglehart and Norris, 2016). Many observers (e.g, Hacker, 2018) have pointed to economic anxiety as a potential contributor to populist reactions in the U.S. and many European countries; a public sector that acts to reduce the risk that households face could ameliorate this, generating political spillovers and improving the state of the country more broadly.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Health, Health Care Policy, Children, Economic Policy, Economic Theory
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Ethan Kaplan
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: In sum, political institutions in the United States favor higher income individuals over lower income individuals and ethnic majorities over ethnic minorities. This is accomplished through a myriad of policies which impact who votes, allow for differential influence and access by the wealthy, structure voting districts to dilute the impacts of under-represented voters, and allow for oversized influence of pro-business owner ideas through media and membership organizations.
  • Topic: Economics, Law, Elections, Democracy, Economic Policy, Voting
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Anton Korinek
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: As technology advanced in recent decades, it increasingly left workers behind and led to sharp increases in inequality. The current wave of progress in artificial intelligence is likely to accelerate these trends. This note lays out three complementary approaches to countering these developments. Firstly, since technological progress generates net gains for society as a whole, the winners could in principle compensate the losers and still be better off. Secondly, progress should be steered to minimize the losses of workers. Thirdly, there is an important role for government intervention in information technology to thwart the rise of monopolies that extract rents from society. The note concludes with some speculations on the impact of artificial intelligence increasingly rivaling human labor.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Labor Issues, Economic Policy, Macroeconomics, Artificial Intelligence
  • Political Geography: United States