In a week that marks the anniversary of the treaty for an African continental free trade area, signed in Kigali on 18 March 2018, this column asks whether it is a turning point on the road towards economic integration. There are signs of progress: the inclusion of negotiations on trade in services; progress-tracking on removing barriers to trade in goods; easing the movement of persons; and improving hard and soft infrastructure to lower trade costs. But starting off with a small membership that does not include all the big players and the possibility of backsliding under the guise of indiscriminate promotion of regional value chains pose serious threats.
Shifting from a centralised rent-seeking society to a decentralised productive society is such a major transformation that it cannot be fully planned in advance. As Paul Collier explained in his keynote address at ERF’s 25th annual conference, it is subject to ‘radical uncertainty’ and as such depends on igniting rapid social learning so that society ‘error-corrects’ as it attempts change. His analysis draws lessons for MENA countries.
With the oil rents of the Middle East set to wane, it is essential to generate opportunities for jobs that are sufficiently productive to sustain the living standards that the population has come to expect. As Paul Collier explained in the opening keynote address at ERF’s 25th annual conference, the bare bones of building productivity at twenty-first century levels are not mysterious: clusters of firms capable of innovation have to be built and linked to vocational training that equips a workforce with the skills that firms need.
ERF’s annual conference has become the premier regional event for economists of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This column previews the 2019 conference, which takes place in Kuwait City next week (10-12 March) and which marks the 25th anniversary of the ERF. The central focus will be on the knowledge economy as an economic development model for the region.
Clustering of economic activity has long been seen as an important way to boost employment, innovation and productivity. This column reports FEMISE research evidence for the positive impact on output and innovation performance of local ‘spillovers’ between domestic and foreign firms located in the same regions in Italy, Tunisia and Turkey. The results provide a benchmark for analysing the efficiency of clusters of small and medium-sized enterprises in southern Mediterranean countries.
Ever since Benjamin Franklin’s observation in the late eighteenth century that people wasted daylight by sleeping after sunrise and squandered wax by burning candles in the evening, energy conservation has been the main motivation for governments to follow ‘daylight saving time’ (DST). Using Turkey’s recent decision to extend DST to the whole year, this column summarises new evidence on how DST affects the consumption and generation of electricity, and related greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis suggests that while total consumption is unchanged, emissions may have gone down due to the policy change.
A comparison between two economic indicators shows how competitiveness is more closely related to social progress than to GDP. This LSE Business Review column looks at how Kuwait, New Zealand and many other countries perform in terms of GDP per capita, the Global Competitiveness Index and a new Social Progress Index.