The World Bank Productivity Project

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The World Bank Productivity Project seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity, grounded in the developing-country context, to global policy makers. Each volume in the series explores a different aspect of the topic through dialogue with academics and policy makers, and through sponsored empirical work in our client countries. The Productivity Project is an initiative of the Vice Presidency for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions.

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Place, Productivity, and Prosperity: Revisiting Spatially Targeted Policies for Regional Development

2022-01-21, Grover, Arti, Lall, Somik V., Maloney, William F.

Place matters for productivity and prosperity. Myriad factors support a successful place, including not only the hard infrastructure such as roads, but also the softer elements such as worker skills, entrepreneurial ability, and well-functioning institutions. History suggests that prosperous places tend to persist, while “left-behind” regions—or those hurt by climatic, technological, or commercial shocks—struggle to catch up. This division gives rise to demands to “do something” about the subsequent spatial inequality. Such pressures often result in costly spatially targeted policies with disappointing outcomes because of a lack of analysis of the underlying barriers to growth and structural transformation and a fair appraisal of the possibility of overcoming them. The latest volume of the World Bank Productivity Project series, Place, Productivity, and Prosperity: Revisiting Spatially Targeted Policies for Regional Development makes three broad contributions. First, it provides new analytical and empirical insights into the three drivers of economic geography—agglomeration economies, migration, and distance—and the way in which these drivers interact. Second, it argues that these forces are playing out differently in developing countries than they have in advanced economies: urbanization is not accompanied by structural transformation, leaving cities crowded and accruing all the negative aspects of urbanization without being concentrated productively. Long-term amelioration of poverty in lagging regions requires advancing the overall national agenda of structural change and productivity growth. Third, it provides a heuristic framework with which to inform policy makers’ assessments of place-based policy proposals, helping them identify the regions where policy is likely to have an impact and those that would remain nonviable. The framework enables governments to clarify the implications of various policy options; to think critically about design priorities, including necessary complementary policies; and to navigate the implementation challenges.

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High-Growth Firms: Facts, Fiction, and Policy Options for Emerging Economies

2019, Grover Goswami, Arti, Medvedev, Denis

Remarkably, a small fraction of firms account for most of the job and output creation in high-income and developing countries alike. Does this imply that the path to enabling more economic dynamism lies in selectively targeting high-potential firms? Or would pursuing broad-based reforms that minimize distortions be more effective? Inspired by these questions, this book presents new evidence on the incidence, characteristics, and drivers of high-growth firms based on in-depth studies of firm dynamics in Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, and Turkey. Its findings reveal that high-growth firms are not only powerful engines of job and output growth but also create positive spillovers for other businesses along the value chain. At the same time, the book debunks several myths about policies to support firm dynamism that focus on outward characteristics, such as firm size, sector, location, or past performance. Its findings show that most firms struggle to sustain rapid rates of expansion and that the relationship between high growth and productivity is often weak. Consequently, the book calls for a shift toward policies that improve the quality of firm growth by supporting innovation, managerial skills, and firms’ ability to leverage global linkages and agglomeration. To help policy makers structure policies that support firm growth, the book proposes a new ABC framework of growth entrepreneurship: improving Allocative efficiency, encouraging Business-tobusiness spillovers, and strengthening firm Capabilities. This book is the third volume of the World Bank Productivity Project, which seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity to global policy makers.

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At Your Service?: The Promise of Services-Led Development

2021-09-15, Nayyar, Gaurav, Hallward-Driemeier, Mary, Davies, Elwyn

Throughout history, industrialization has been synonymous with development. However, the trend of premature deindustrialization and the spread of automation technologies associated with Industry 4.0 has raised concerns that the development model based on export-led manufacturing seen in East Asia will be harder for hitherto less industrialized countries to replicate in the future. Can services-led development be an alternative? Contrary to conventional wisdom, the features of manufacturing that were considered uniquely conducive for productivity growth - such as international trade, scale economies, inter-sectoral linkages, and innovation - are increasingly shared by the services sector. But services are not monolithic. The twin gains of productivity growth and large-scale job creation for relatively low-skilled workers are less likely to come together in any given services subsector. The promise of services-led development in the future will be strengthened to the extent that technological change reduces the trade-off between productivity and jobs, and growth opportunities in services with potential for high productivity do not depend on a manufacturing base. Considering technological change and linkages between sectors while differentiating across types of services, this book assesses the scope of a services-driven development model and policy directions that maximize its potential.

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Productivity Revisited: Shifting Paradigms in Analysis and Policy

2018-10-25, Cusolito, Ana Paula, Maloney, William F.

The stagnation of productivity in the developing world, and indeed, across the globe, over the last two decades dictates a rethinking of productivity measurement, analysis, and policy. This volume presents a 'second wave' of thinking in three key areas of productivity analysis and its implications for productivity policies. It calls into question the measurement and relevance of distortions as the primary barrier to productivity growth; urges a broader concept of firm performance that goes beyond efficiency to quality upgrading and demand expansion; and explores what it takes to generate an experimental and innovative society where entrepreneurs have the personal characteristics to identify new technologies and manage risk within an entrepreneurial ecosystem that facilitates them doing so. It also reviews arguments surrounding industrial policies. The authors argue for an integrated approach to productivity analysis that incorporates both the need to reduce economic distortions and generate the human capital capable of identifying the opportunities offered to follower countries and upgrade firm capabilities. Finally, it offers guidance on prioritizing policies when there is uncertainty around diagnostics and limited government capability.

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Harvesting Prosperity: Technology and Productivity Growth in Agriculture

2020, Fuglie, Keith, Gautam, Madhur, Goyal, Aparajita, Maloney, William F.

This book documents frontier knowledge on the drivers of agriculture productivity to derive pragmatic policy advice for governments and development partners on reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. The analysis describes global trends and long-term sources of total factor productivity growth, along with broad trends in partial factor productivity for land and labor, revisiting the question of scale economies in farming. Technology is central to growth in agricultural productivity, yet across many parts of the developing world, readily available technology is never taken up. We investigate demand-side constraints of the technology equation to analyze factors that might influence producers, particularly poor producers, to adopt modern technology. Agriculture and food systems are rapidly transforming, characterized by shifting food preferences, the rise and growing sophistication of value chains, the increasing globalization of agriculture, and the expanding role of the public and private sectors in bringing about efficient and more rapid productivity growth. In light of this transformation, the analysis focuses on the supply side of the technology equation, exploring how the enabling environment and regulations related to trade and intellectual property rights stimulate Research and Development to raise productivity. The book also discusses emerging developments in modern value chains that contribute to rising productivity. This book is the fourth volume of the World Bank Productivity Project, which seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity to global policy makers.

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The Innovation Paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the Unrealized Promise of Technological Catch-Up

2017-10-03, Cirera, Xavier, Maloney, William F.

Since Schumpeter, economists have argued that vast productivity gains can be achieved by investing in innovation and technological catch-up. Yet, as this volume documents, developing country firms and governments invest little to realize this potential, which dwarfs international aid flows. Using new data and original analytics, the authors uncover the key to this innovation paradox in the lack of complementary physical and human capital factors, particularly firm managerial capabilities, that are needed to reap the returns to innovation investments. Hence, countries need to rebalance policy away from R&D-centered initiatives – which are likely to fail in the absence of sophisticated private sector partners – toward building firm capabilities, and embrace an expanded concept of the National Innovation System that incorporates a broader range of market and systemic failures. The authors offer guidance on how to navigate the resulting innovation policy dilemma: as the need to redress these additional failures increases with distance from the frontier, government capabilities to formulate and implement the policy mix become weaker. This book is the first volume of the World Bank Productivity Project, which seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity to global policy makers.