Covid-19: time to unleash the power of international co-operation

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By Mario Pezzini, Director, OECD Development Centre and Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary General on Development


This blog is part of a series on tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) in developing countries. The OECD is compiling data, information, analysis and recommendations regarding the health, economic, financial and societal challenges posed by the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Please visit our dedicated page for a full suite of coronavirus-related information.


Development co-operationThe rapid spread of the dire human, social and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis shows just how interconnected we are. International co-operation has become –literally– vital.

A health crisis has set off a global economic crisis, where shocks on the demand and supply sides are combining in an unprecedented scenario. Many developing countries are bracing themselves. While Europe is struggling to contain and cope with a spiralling number of cases and fatalities, the effects in countries where health systems are already weak, economies are highly dependent on global demand, and strict containment policies are more difficult to implement, could be even more disastrous.

Major outbreaks in developing countries could cause the collapse of weak health systems and expose gaps in social protection programmes, especially in Africa, where so many schemes rely on official development assistance. A humanitarian crisis may be in the making: travel restrictions affect the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and infections in refugee camps – largely hosted in developing countries – will be difficult to fight. The ILO estimates that 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide, possibly more, as the majority of workers in developing countries are in the informal economy. Continue reading

Can aid help countries avoid the middle-income trap?

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By Homi Kharas, Interim Vice President and Director – Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of 
Development in Transition


Middle-income-trapMost aid agencies have tried to articulate a “middle-income” strategy for how to support client countries that are no longer poor. For example, see the Asian Development Bank Strategy 2030 and the World Bank’s approach to middle-income countries. In both cases, there is an emphasis on second-generation challenges, including those related to environmental, social and governance institutions. Failure to meet these challenges can trap countries in middle-income status.

The problem, however, is that there is no solid theoretical or empirical foundation on how to support growth in middle-income countries—the diversity of contexts and experiences is so large that robust policy conclusions are hard to draw, and useful interventions by aid agencies even harder to figure out.

Barro (2012) succinctly summarizes the limits of empirical work: “My view is that one has to accept the idea that pinpointing precisely which X variables matter for growth is impossible.” In a similar vein, Rodrik (2012) titled his paper “Why We Learn Nothing from Regressing Economic Growth on Policies.” Most researchers (see for example Jones (2016) and Kim and Park (2017)) find that middle-income growth is all about total factor productivity growth (TFP). TFP growth, in turn, is what is left over after accounting for the growth of all inputs. Jones breaks down TFP into two components: knowledge/ideas and M that he says stands for either misallocation or a measure of ignorance. Continue reading

Social discontent in Latin America through the lens of development traps

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By Sebastián Nieto-Parra, Mario Pezzini and Juan Vázquez, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of 
Development in Transition


LATAM-Social-discontent.jpgUntil recently, rising levels of citizen dissatisfaction with public services and institutions in Latin America might have merely been pictured as an upward line in a graph. However, it seems to have reached a breaking point. Growing social discontent has boiled over into protests across several Latin American countries over the past weeks. While these protests are complex and multifaceted, understanding the underlying causes is essential to defining policy priorities that may help address the structural sources of discontent.

GDP growth is not alone in driving social unrest, as protests have not necessarily taken place in countries with the lowest growth rates or at times of lower economic dynamism, like the 2008 crisis.  Furthermore, income gradually ‘delinks’ from well-being outcomes, as countries move up the income ladder. This has clearly been the case for most Latin American countries since the 2000s (OECD et al., 2019a). Continue reading

Overcoming the Challenges of the Transition and Exit from Aid

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By Annalisa Prizzon, Senior Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute 


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of 
Development in Transition


 

ODI transition finance
Flat stairs, Sao Paulo by Jared Yeh / Flickr CC-BY-NC-ND

Since 2000, the number of low-income countries (LICs) has more than halved — from 63 to 31 — and have now joined the ranks of middle-income countries (MICs). Typically, these economies have strengthened their macroeconomic management, played a stronger and more visible role in global policy, diversified their sources of finance and received less external development assistance (or ceased to benefit materially from it).

As developing countries become richer and address their own development challenges, donors usually reconsider their programming and interventions. And so, transition and exit from bilateral development co-operation programmes should rightfully be celebrated as an indicator of success in economic and social development.

Challenges facing financing for development

However, as countries graduate from soft windows of multilateral development banks or as bilateral donors cut their country programmes — or they shift to loans if that is an option — the financing mix changes. Reliance on tax revenues and commercial finance when aid starts falling inevitably expands, and so does the costs to service debt obligations. Tax revenues do not necessarily increase to fill the gap. Continue reading

Triangular, the shape of things to come?

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By Mario Pezzini, Alicia Barcena, Stefano Manservisi 


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of 
Development in Transition


As the global community gathers in Argentina to mark the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries, we have an additional opportunity to discuss, debate, and design a reinvigorated international co-operation system.

And something as small as what is currently called “triangular co-operation” can take centre stage in that system. Just like few imagined that the European Coal and Steel Community created in 1950 would grow into what the European Union is today, we think triangular co-operation’s future potential could very well dwarf its current status.

Rather than rationalise business as usual, we believe triangular co-operation could give us, instead, wide space for unleashing new thinking about the promise and value of multi-partner engagements to advance inclusive and sustainable development.

Continue reading