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 The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising.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.
Marco Annunziata, 16 August 2014
Nauro 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.
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.
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.
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.
Jerónimo Carballo, Christian Volpe, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.