Andy Serwer writes today on the Fortune magazine website an article entitled “Can Jordan Build on its Relative Success?” Even the title is a give-away of modest expectations: “relative success”? The article lists some of Jordan’s undeniable achievements over the past seven or eight years: free trade agreements with the U.S. and the European Union that have caused exports to soar, some measure of macroeconomic stability, continued GDP growth even in the current economic crisis, improvements in education and health care, and reform and liberalization of several key areas of the economy. Having spent quite a lot of time working in Jordan, I agree with Mr. Serwer’s assessment of Jordan as the most secure and pleasant place to live in the neighborhood – in which he includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel – though Beirut’s nightlife and the topless sunbathers in Tel Aviv outshine any of Jordan’s more sedate attractions. But it is easy to overstate the case. [click to continue…]
Zimbabwe, it seems, is preparing for a return to the international stage in something other than the role of pariah. According the official government newspaper The Herald, the government has just launched a “massive investment and tourism marketing drive that should see high-powered business delegations visit and court investors from 26 nations worldwide.” The 26 countries, all of which are to receive a visit before the end of 2009, include the United Kingdom, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, China, Russia, Iran, Australia, Japan, Spain, and that economic powerhouse North Korea. [click to continue…]
I arrived a week ago in Minsk, capital of the former Soviet Republic of Belarus, as part of a small team of World Bank staff and consultants visiting for a week to conduct what is called a “mini-diagnostic” of the investment climate – or business enabling environment, as it is also called – and to identify areas in which reform is both needed and possible.
Over the past decade or more, investment climate reform has become a core product for the World Bank Group, which has been offered to at least a hundred countries. It is a reflection of the “Washington Consensus,” which I have written about in a previous post, and which is a statement of the market-oriented reforms and liberalization of the economy considered essential to achieve economic growth. [click to continue…]
I have been in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, the past few days, working on a World Bank Group assignment to help improve the investment climate. Minsk is a European-looking city with wide boulevards, grand neoclassical buildings, and a fairly prosperous air, most people fairly well-fed and well-dressed. The streets are clean and free of crime, and there are none of the gangs of drunken youth or ominous clusters of mafiosi up to no good that I remember from previous trips to other parts of the former Soviet Union, A fairly normal place, you’d think.
But Belarus has a serious image problem. [click to continue…]
Once upon a time there was something called the “Washington Consensus,” a set of economic policy prescriptions championed by the World Bank and the IMF and endorsed by all of the large industrialized countries. The main pillars of the consensus included:
- Fiscal discipline;
- Reducing government spending on subsidies for businesses, farmers, and consumers in favor of increased spending on things like education, health care, and infrastructure;
- Tax reform – broadening the tax base and lowering tax rates;
- A market-based approach to interest and foreign exchange rates;
- Liberalizing trade by getting rid of licensing requirements and lowering import duties;
- Liberalization of inward foreign direct investment;
- Privatization of state enterprises;
- Getting rid of regulations that impede market entry or restrict competition, except those that protect the environment and public health and safety ; and,
- Reinforcing property rights. [click to continue…]