Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Tobias Ketterer, 18 November 2019

Institutions are an important ingredient for economic growth. Using data from European regions for the period 1999-2013, this column shows that government quality matters for regional growth, and that relative improvements in the quality of government are a powerful driver of development. One-size-fits-all policies for lagging regions are not the solution. Government quality improvements are essential for low-growth regions, and in low-income regions, basic endowment shortages are still the main barrier to development. 

Matthias Flückiger, Erik Hornung, Mario Larch, Markus Ludwig, Allard Mees, 28 August 2019

Against the backdrop of megaprojects such as the TEN-T Core Network or the Belt and Road initiative, assessing the role of transport infrastructure in fostering economic integration has gained renewed interest. While there is clear evidence that reducing transport costs increases economic integration in the short run, this column emphasises that we should be aware of the profound and lasting effects that past infrastructure investments have on economic and cultural integration.

Francois de Soyres, Alen Mulabdic, Michele Ruta, 12 July 2019

Common transport infrastructure can improve welfare for participating countries, but they are costly undertakings with potentially asymmetric effects on trade and income of individual countries. This column uses new data on China’s Belt and Road transport projects to quantify the economic impact of the initiative. Welfare in participating countries could increase by 2.8% if all projects are implemented, but some countries have a negative welfare effect because of the high cost of the infrastructure. 

Martin Melecky, 12 July 2019

There has been increasing interest in how infrastructure can help close gender gaps in developing countries. Based on studies of various highway investment programmes in Asia, this column reveals how highways can help women can seize better jobs if they are already employed. Compared with men, however, women have some distinct demands from road corridor programmes and could face gender-specific risks, notably during the construction of the highways. 

Prottoy A. Akbar, Victor Couture, Gilles Duranton, Adam Storeygard, 29 June 2019

Urban transportation in developing countries is prioritised for massive investments, yet little is known about the determinants of urban mobility in these countries. This column applies a methodology for measuring the performance of overall motor vehicle transportation in a city to the 154 largest cities in India. It finds that there are substantial differences in mobility speeds across large Indian cities but that the variation is driven primarily by uncongested mobility, not by congestion delays. This implies that typical policy measures attempting to improve urban mobility are missing the mark altogether.

Philipp-Bastian Brutscher, Andreas Kappeler, 18 April 2018

Adequate infrastructure is essential for growth. Since the financial crisis, however, public sector infrastructure investment in the EU has been scaled back. This column uses data from a recent survey to explore the causes of Europe’s infrastructure gaps. The results suggest that more coordination and planning are needed for infrastructure projects, both at the EU and national levels. Efforts to attract private investors also need to continue.

Christian Helmers, Henry Overman, 25 November 2017

Highly localised research infrastructure investment, such as in the Large Hadron Collider, often leads to major scientific breakthroughs, but there is little evidence on the longer-term and wider geographical impacts on scientific output. This column uses the example of the UK’s Diamond Light Source to study the impact of large facilities on where scientific research is conducted. Not only do such investments substantially increase directly related research in the local area, they also create spillovers on unrelated research through knowledge sharing.

Steve Gibbons, Henry Overman, Teemu Lyytikainen, Rosa Sanchis-Guarner, 27 July 2017

New government policy initiatives aim to reverse the trend of declining investment in Britain’s road network. This column asks whether such investment generates economic benefits, either locally or nationally. Places with improved accessibility from new major roads over 1998-2008 experienced increases in the number of local firms and, consequently, higher local employment. At the same time, businesses already operating in these areas shed workers while maintaining existing levels of output, implying higher labour productivity.

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.

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.

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