Commission on Growth and Development

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The Growth Commission’s reports identify the ingredients that, if used in the right country-specific recipe, can deliver growth and help lift populations out of poverty. The Commission, consisting of 19 experienced leaders and 2 Nobel prize-winning economists, has released several commission reports, thematic volumes, and background working papers. The spring 2010 volume is the final book from the Commission. The Commission is succeeded by The Growth Dialogue.

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    Public Finance and Economic Development: Reflections Based on the Experience in China
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Gordon, Roger H.
    Low tax revenue and slow economic growth are two central concerns in developing countries. However, policies that raise tax revenue also harm economic growth. With tax revenue coming mainly from large capital-intensive firms, and with a large informal sector, policies that aid large firms and policies that discourage entry of new firms both help increase tax revenue. Entrepreneurial activity as a result is discouraged, lowering growth. There is a basic tension in policy design between current tax revenue and economic growth. In fact, a loss in tax revenue can itself reduce growth, due to less spending on education and infrastructure. It can also undermine political support for the reforms from the poor and from government bureaucrats, both of whom are key beneficiaries of government expenditures. What policies encourage growth without undue loss of current expenditures? One is debt finance, but this creates the risk of a financial crisis if tax revenue rises too slowly to repay this debt. A second is user fees, but such fees still undermine political support from the poor. A third is partial reform, maintaining both higher taxes on and some protection for easily taxed firms, even while barriers to entry are eased.
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    Explaining China's Development and Reforms
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009) Hofman, Bert ; Wu, Jinglian
    China's remarkable economic performance over the last 30 years resulted from reforms that met the specific conditions of China at any point in time. Starting with a heavily distorted and extremely poor economy, China gradually reformed by improving incentives in agriculture, phasing out the planned economy and allowing non-state enterprise entry, opening up to the outside world, reforming state enterprises and the financial sector, and ultimately by starting to establish the modern tools of macroeconomic management. The way China went about its reforms was marked by gradualism, experimentation, and decentralization, which allowed the most appropriate institutions to emerge that delivered high growth that by and large benefited all. Strong incentives for local governments to deliver growth, competition among jurisdictions, and strong control of corruption limited rent seeking in the semi reformed system, whereas investment in human capital and the organizations that were to design reforms continued to provide impetus for the reform process. Learning from other countries' experience was important, but more important was China's adaptation of that experience to its own particular circumstances and needs.
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    Growth Strategies and Dynamics: Insights from Country Experiences
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008) El-Erian, Mohamed A. ; Spence, Michael
    The paper examines the challenges that developing countries face in accelerating and sustaining growth. The cases of China and India are examined to illustrate a more general phenomenon which might be called model uncertainty. As a developing economy grows, its market and regulatory institutions change and their capabilities increase. As a result, growth strategies and policies and the role of government shift. Further, as the models of economies in these transitional states are incomplete and because models used to predict policy impacts in advanced economies may not provided accurate predictions in the developing economy case, growth strategies and policies need to be responsive and to evolve as the economy matures. This has lead governments in countries that have sustained high growth to be somewhat pragmatic, to treat the policy directions that emerge from the advanced economy model with circumspection, to be somewhat experimental in seeking to accelerate export diversification, to be sensitive to risks, and as a result to proceed gradually in areas such as the timing and sequencing of opening up on the current and capital accounts. The last is an area in which existing theory provides relatively little specific guidance, but in which there are relatively high risks that decline over time as the market matures.
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    Exports of Manufactures and Economic Growth: The Fallacy of Composition Revisited
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008) Cline, William R.
    The author's 1982 article on the fallacy of composition questioned the feasibility of generalizing the "G4" (Hong Kong (China), the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan (China)) growth model based on rapid growth of exports, on grounds that if all developing economies pursued it, their combined manufactured exports would eventually trigger protection in industrial countries. The1984 book of author identified a safe speed limit of about 10-15 percent annually for growth of developing country exports of manufactures, well below the 25-35 percent rate of Korea and Taiwan, China in the 1960s and 1970s. This study revisits this question in the light of a quarter-century of experience. It finds that developing countries' aggregate manufactured exports grew at about 10 percent annually, a robust pace but within the speed limits he had envisioned. Even so, in key sectors such as apparel, import penetration levels have exceeded thresholds that his earlier estimates would have suggested would provoke protection, suggesting the importance of increased World Trade Organization (WTO) discipline. The base of manufactured exports from poor countries remains small relative to that of China and the original G4, so there should be considerable room for export growth from these newcomers. However, a new macroeconomic version of the fallacy of composition problem could arise: the growing tendency of China and some other major emerging market economies to pursue rapidly rising trade surpluses that have their counterpart in an increasingly unsustainable U.S. current account deficit.