©Reuters/Jason Lee

Asia’s Challenges

The forces driving Asia’s rapid growth–new technology, globalisation, and market-oriented reform–are also fuelling rising inequality. Some income divergence is inevitable in times of fast economic development, but that shouldn’t make for complacency, especially in the face of rising inequality in people’s opportunities to develop their human capital and income-earning capacity.

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©DR

Trusting in crowds

“Crowdsourcing” pools the strength of the many to perform complex tasks–everything from funding a film to sequencing DNA. At its heart is trust–not a blanket belief in great institutions, but rather the confidence among individuals that each will do the right thing. Its power is being increasingly felt today, even in the world of international development.

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You paint a positive picture of Turkey’s economy in terms of growth of GDP and employment (OECD Observer No 290-91, Q1-Q2 2012). Nevertheless, the interview states that for the future of the Turkish economy, “labour market reform is key, especially to encourage the shifting of resources from the informal to the formal sector: a more flexible labour contract is needed and minimum wage setting should be decentralised”

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

© REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

With over 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24–a figure that will double by 2045–Africa’s fast-growing population is the youngest in the world. In the coming decades, hundreds of millions of young Africans will pour on to the job labour market as they leave schools branding qualifications of various levels.

In May 2012 the OECD Ministerial Council endorsed the OECD Strategy on Development, describing it as an essential tool for adapting the organisation’s work to fast changing realities. What are the factors behind the new strategy and what are the aims? 

©Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly

The OECD is cooperating with governments and companies to combat the scourge of conflict minerals and has issued a guidance that several African countries have endorsed. There are encouraging signs of progress.

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Aid from major donors in the OECD area to developing countries fell by nearly 3% in 2011, ending a long trend of annual increases: until 2011, aid had been increasing for more than a decade, and by 63% between 2000 and 2010, the year it reached its peak.

©Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

What can we do in the years to come to ensure food security? In the opinion of Action contre la Faim, a number of avenues could help promote secure access to food for everyone. 

Tackling the challenge to build well-functioning tax systems in developing countries requires concerted international co-operation among developed and developing countries, international organisations, business and civil society. 

In a relatively short time, microfinance has become a major tool of international development. But too many potential entrepreneurs still have little or no access to financing. Innovation and government policy have a central role to play in correcting this imbalance. 

©Reuters

Hunger affects about 1 billion people around the world, and as the economic crisis continues, the push for growth can actually make matters worse.

Marie Gad

In many African countries, where unemployment rates can run as high as 30%, there is strong potential for entrepreneurship and employment. Development must focus on bringing down the barriers to progress. 

Mario Pezzini

The increase in average incomes and the fall in levels of absolute poverty, in particular during the last decade, suggest that an increasing proportion of the world’s population is neither rich nor poor by national standards but finds itself in the middle of the income distribution. 

Cherie Blair ©OECD

Discrimination against women hurts everyone. As Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Cherie Blair explains, women entrepreneurs are an economic resource that economies, rich and poor alike, can ill afford to overlook.

There are signs of a new, more confident and self-affirming Africa taking shape. As the 2011 edition of the African Economic Outlook argues, this newness is also evident in the continent’s relationships with emerging economies.

Development aid from OECD donor countries totalled $129 billion in 2010, the highest level ever, and an increase of 6.5% over 2009. But despite this record, the 2010 figures confirm that some donors are not meeting internationally agreed commitments.

As efforts to restart the stalled Doha Development Round negotiations intensify, the policy focus on world trade, and, specifically, its relation to development aid and growth in poorer countries, has become more acute. Trade is a powerful engine for economic growth, as the OECD’s founders argued 50 years ago, and, as such, can contribute to reducing poverty. However, efforts to improve trade in developing countries are often hampered by domestic constraints, particularly a lack of adequate economic infrastructures, as well as institutional and organisational obstacles.

A new kitchen can raise the value of any home, but in developing countries it can also save lives. That is why in 2010 the OECD’s very own staff charity, the War on Hunger Group, decided to contribute funding to fitting a new kitchen in the headquarters of AFENA, an NGO dedicated to looking after abandoned women and children, and based in Niger’s second city, Maradi.

In 2008, the Chinese economist Justin Yifu Lin became the first person from a developing country to be appointed World Bank Chief Economist.

We are celebrating the OECD’s 50th anniversary during the tail-end of the worst financial and economic crisis of our lifetimes. It’s a good moment to take stock and to ask the right questions. Why couldn’t we avoid the crisis? Were the policies and the policy mix we promoted the right ones, and how can we adjust these polices to new realities? What is more, are we doing enough to prevent another crisis? Are our economic theories, our models and our assumptions still appropriate? How should our organisation’s work be adapted so that we continue fulfilling our founding mission of promoting better policies for better lives?

The OECD, a pioneer in the quest to measure the progress and well-being of societies, is launching an exciting new initiative, incorporating Your Better Life Index. The initiative is not only a major step forward in assessing people’s true welfare, but involves people in the process too.

Is Africa finally on the move? The signs are promising.Rich in natural resources and with more than one billion people, it achieved five consecutive years of economic growth averaging more than 5% over 2004-08. In fact, private investment rose every year from 2000 to reach US$472.2 billion in 2008. And despite some fallout from the economic crisis that started in the OECD area in 2008 and brought African GDP per head to a virtual standstill in 2009, activity has started to ramp up again.

There are no silver bullets or magic potions for human development. Rather than trying to replicate past experience, we need to focus on new opportunities.

On 2 November, Morocco launched a US$9 billion solar energy programme. With five power plants, the programme aims for a total installed capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020-equivalent to almost 40% of the country's electricity production.

Through the ages, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa have been known for their great feats in engineering. The marvels are legion, from the Mesopotamian irrigation systems to the Great Pyramid. But did you know that the first concentrated solar steam engine was built near Cairo in 1914? A century later, solar energy is again putting the region on the cusp of new exploits, this time in renewable energy.

A salmon would find it a hardscrabble life in the waterways of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Not because of dried riverbeds, overfishing or pollution, but because the region has more dams per cubic metre of water than any other place on earth.

The Maghreb coastal corridor links Morocco to Egypt by road and from there connects to the Arab countries of the Mashreq. Much of the 31,000 km of planned roads are in place. Part of a major road plan that some hope will one day link much of the African coastline, the corridor embodies a future of promise.

Arab Innovative Teachers Forum, Morocco, April 2008 ©Rafael Marchante/REUTERS

Hana Barqawi realised her dream of opening her own children's furniture store two years ago in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Ms Barqawi is part of a wave of female entrepreneurs that has swept across the Middle East and North Africa area over the past decade or more. 

Africa's economies were on the rise when the financial crisis hit in 2008. Growth was running high on the back of commodity price increases, with African exports almost doubling between 2000 and 2006. Over the same period, foreign capital flows quintupled. Yet the crisis has jeopardised this progress, resulting in a severe investment slowdown, particularly in oil and mineral production, and halving Africa's growth rate from 5.7 % in 2008 to 2.4 % in 2009.

Economic data

GDP growth: -1.8% Q1 2020/Q4 2019
Consumer price inflation: 0.9% Apr 2020 annual
Trade (G20): -4.3% exp, -3.9% imp, Q1 2020/Q4 2019
Unemployment: 8.4% Apr 2020
Last update: 9 July 2020

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