African growth looking forward
Marco Annunziata 16 August 2014
Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.
Views on Africa’s growth prospects have jumped from utter pessimism to extreme enthusiasm. The latter has been centre-stage with the US–Africa Summit hosted in Washington DC from 4–6 August 2014, with the participation of top political and business leaders. My coauthors Todd Johnson and Shlomi Kramer and I have tried to take a sober assessment of Africa’s progress and prospects, looking beyond the current hype and the inevitable frustration that doing business in the region still generates (Annunziata et al. 2014).
development, growth, Africa, human capital, trade, innovation, infrastructure, commodity boom
Football in the time of protest
Nauro F Campos 13 June 2014
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is upon us. This column argues that there will be plenty of partying, but also plenty of protests fuelled by the gross mismanagement and limited economic benefits from hosting the Cup. Stadia may be ready, but much planned infrastructure has already been abandoned. Indeed, rent-seeking may be one reason nations bid for the Cup. Since the returns to transportation infrastructure are higher in poor countries, the international community should work to stamp out corruption so that poor countries can continue to host mega-events like the World Cup.
Football is actually coming home. Brazil is the spiritual home of the ‘beautiful game’. It is the only country to have competed in all 20 World Cup tournaments, it has won the tournament a record five times, and it is the only country to have won the tournament ‘away’ (Ponzo and Scoppa 2014).1 Brazilians worship football. As in all previous World Cups, the country will stop when the Seleção plays. Unlike all other Cups, however, this time there may be protests.
Institutions and economics Politics and economics
Corruption, Political Economy, soccer, rent-seeking, Football, Brazil, infrastructure, sport, protests, FIFA
Roads to deeper European integration
Henrik Braconier, Mauro Pisu 20 February 2014
Despite substantial integration, national borders still provide a large obstacle to trade in Europe. This column shows that much of these ‘iceberg costs’ can be attributed to underdeveloped infrastructure, namely roads. Improving international roadways to the level of national ones could substantially raise gains to trade.
Over the past 60 years, increasing European integration has brought peace and security, besides contributing to large social welfare gains (through lower prices and a larger variety of products). Still, national borders matter a lot within Europe and a vast literature has documented the large negative effect of national borders on trade – also known as the border effect (Nitsch 2000, Head and Mayer 2000, Anderson and van Wincoop 2003, de Serres et al. 2001, Chen 2004).
trade costs, infrastructure
US electrification in the 1930s
Carl Kitchens 29 January 2014
Economists have found that large-scale infrastructure investments tend to increase economic growth and reduce poverty. However, there has been relatively little research on the effects of smaller, more targeted investment projects. This column discusses recent research on the effects of the US Rural Electrification Administration, which provided subsidised loans for connecting farms to the electric grid. Counties that received electricity through the REA witnessed smaller declines in agricultural productivity, smaller declines in land values, and more retail activity than similar counties that did not.
In 1930, fewer than 10% of farms in the US had access to electricity. By the mid-1950s, almost every farm in the country had electricity. While the US was able to extend electricity to its rural locations rapidly over a 25-year period, much of the developing world still remains without electricity today. In 2012, 1.3 billion people lived without electricity worldwide.
Development Economic history
growth, Agriculture, technology, investment, subsidies, electricity, infrastructure, electrification
Transport infrastructure and market integration: Lessons from the British industrial revolution
Liam Brunt, Edmund Cannon 27 July 2013
The EU justifies its funding of large-scale transport infrastructure projects by arguing that it leads to more market integration. Does it work? This column uses evidence from Britain and its Industrial Revolution to assess the extent to which transport infrastructure projects increase market integration. By comparing industrialising Britain with today’s EU, the EU’s record turns out to be quite good and its investment in large infrastructure projects has led to significant price dispersion. However, recent financial turmoil has undermined its efforts in recent years.
For many years, the EU has prioritised the funding of large-scale transport infrastructure projects. Between 2007 and 2013 alone, the Trans-European Transport Network programme funded 348 projects at a cost of €7billion (TEN-T Executive Agency 2013). The goal of this investment has been to increase the integration of European markets. There is an interesting analogy here to Britain during the Industrial Revolution – when the advent of a turnpike road network (1760s), canal network (1790s) and railway network (1840s) changed the face of British transport (Bogart 2013).
New roads to export: Insights from the Inca roads
Jerónimo Carballo, Christian Volpe Martincus, Ana Cusolito 13 July 2013
Expanding road infrastructure is often justified on the basis of its presumed effects on exports. Yet, available evidence on to what extent these effects really materialise is very limited due to difficulties faced in convincingly identifying true casual relationships. Historical road networks can help overcome this endogeneity challenge. This column provides evidence for Peru based on the Inca road network and suggests that improvements in road infrastructure have had a significant impact on firms’ exports and thereby on job creation.
In policy circles domestic transport infrastructure is seen as a key determinant of exports. More precisely, among policymakers, there is a well rooted idea according to which new roads can generate increased exports. Statements in official documents introducing public export plans of developed and developing countries alike are illustrative in this regard. The report presenting the US National Export Initiative 2011 is a clear example.
infrastructure, Export, Peru
Infrastructure: The governance failures
Nicklas Garemo, Jan Mischke 30 March 2013
Investment in infrastructure can bring growth and social benefits. This column highlights the infrastructure opportunities open to depressed economies, stressing that the main obstacles are governance-related. To bring opportunities to life will require an overhaul of infrastructure governance – a root cause of infrastructure projects’ poor productivity.
Europe’s infrastructure programme was the big loser from February’s EU budget deal. Planned infrastructure investment of €50 billion over seven years was reduced to just €24 billion. Among the programmes that now look in doubt is the Connecting Europe Facility, which included financial support for the development of cross-European transport, cleaner energy supply, and fast broadband connections, and was designed to catalyse private investment in all three, too.
Industrial organisation Politics and economics
Can passenger railways curb road-traffic externalities? Empirical evidence
Rafael Lalive, Simon Luechinger, Armin Schmutzler 15 March 2013
Against a backdrop of road accidents, pollution and congestion, many governments subsidise railways with the aim of reducing such externalities. But do improvements in public transport work? This column argues that recent empirical evidence confirms our expectations and, moreover, that public-transport improvements offer good value for money.
Road accidents kill 1.2m people every year (WHO). Road transportation is the main source of local air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. It contributes to noise and global air pollution, and it leads to congestion. Against this backdrop, many governments subsidise railways with the explicit aim of reducing road-traffic externalities. However, do improvements in public transport really curb road-traffic externalities? In this column, we discuss recent empirical evidence identifying positive effects of public-transport improvements.
Environment Frontiers of economic research Productivity and Innovation
externalities, pollution, infrastructure, railways, trains
Highway to success in India
Ejaz Ghani, Arti Grover Goswami, William Kerr 05 February 2013
Investment in transport plays an important role in a country’s economic development. This column assesses Indian industries that are moving out of the congested big cities in search of cheaper land and buildings, facilitated by major highways. The Golden Quadrilateral highway project -- a huge, country-wide highway building project connecting four major Indian cities -- significantly influences the success of industries’ exodus from the big cities. It is clear that although highway investments are expensive, the costs of not investing may be too high.
Transport investments within cities and across cities are essential for economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. Beyond simply facilitating cheaper and more efficient movements of goods, people, and ideas within cities, transport affects the distribution of economic activity across cities. Many researchers have shown that transport investment plays an important role in spatial development and urbanisation. Henderson et al. (2001) find that industrial decentralisation in South Korea is attributable to massive transport and communications infrastructure investments.
India, infrastructure, highways, roads, Golden Quadrilateral
The privatisation of infrastructure: One size does not fit all
Alexis Maingard, Laura Recuero Virto 16 September 2011
Is privatisation of infrastructure a cheap road to development? This column argues that policymakers should recognise that what works for some situations won’t work for all. When it comes to infrastructure, the column suggests that governments and international financial institutions should look beyond the private sector.
he wave of infrastructure privatisations that occurred from the 1980s onwards has led to very different sectoral outcomes across the world (Bortolotti and Siniscalco 2004). For the case of fixed-line telecommunications, in OECD countries privatisations have resulted in higher labour efficiency. By contrast, in non-OECD countries privatisations have mainly increased residential tariffs.
Development Institutions and economics Politics and economics