Development

Ana Fernandes, Alejandro Forero, Hibret Maemir, Aaditya Mattoo, 14 April 2021

Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2001, the US allowed duty-free entry of apparel products from eligible African countries. However, the end of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement in 2005 re-exposed African countries to significant international competition from Asia. This column finds that countries in Southern Africa and firms in Kenya that boomed during the period of high initial trade preferences went bust when the Multi-Fiber Arrangement expired. Subsequent growth was driven by new countries, notably Ethiopia, and by new firms in Kenya. These results are consistent with the complementary role of domestic reforms rather than the ‘infant industry’ benefits of trade preferences alone.

Eduardo Cavallo, Andrew Powell, 13 April 2021

Latin America and the Caribbean suffered from several regional preconditions in advance of the Covid-19 crisis, including weak health infrastructure, low growth, and inefficient taxation. Now the pandemic threatens to leave the region with even higher poverty levels, greater inequality, and debts across virtually all countries. This column recognises the severity of these challenges but also provides reason to hope. If Covid-19 produces the political will to move the region towards better policy frameworks and execution, something positive could come of the crisis.

Alex Armand, Ivan Kim Taveras, 11 April 2021

When discussing the socioeconomic effects of climate change, little attention has been given to the role of the ocean. This column presents new evidence of the effect of ocean acidification on early-childhood mortality in low- and middle-income countries. Small increases in exposure to water acidity while in utero have significant effects on neonatal mortality. A closer look at possible mechanisms highlight the role of the ocean for nutrition and how overfishing represents an additional threat.

Noam Angrist, Simeon Djankov, Pinelopi Goldberg, Harry Patrinos, 09 April 2021

Human capital is a critical component of economic development. But the links between growth and human capital – when measured by years of schooling – are weak. This column introduces a better measurement, using a database that directly measures learning and represents 98% of the global population. The authors find that the link between economic development and human capital is strong when measured in this way. They also show that global progress in learning has been limited over the past two decades, even as enrolment in primary and secondary education has increased.

Avinash Persaud, 01 April 2021

The servicing and rolling over of the public and private debt of middle-income countries is a major point of COVID-19-induced stress in the global economy. The G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative is a worthy initiative, but it does not address this issue. This column outlines three related steps that may help avoid a crisis. The centre-piece is recycling new and unused Special Drawing Rights for debt reduction through the repayment or repurchase of debt. Moral hazard can be addressed by reducing only those debts held by official creditors and up to an amount equal to fiscal expenditures relating to natural disasters – COVID-19 and climate change, principal amongst them.  

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