Shah, Anwar

Global Practice for Governance, The World Bank
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governance; public sector reform; budgetary accountability;
Global Practice for Governance, The World Bank
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Last updated January 31, 2023

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    Bridging the Economic Divide within Nations : A Scorecard on the Performance of Regional Development Policies in Reducing Regional Income Disparities
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-11) Shankar, Raja ; Shah, Anwar
    Regional inequalities represent a continuing development challenge in most countries, especially those with large geographic areas. Globalization heightens these challenges because it places a premium on skills: since rich regions typically also have better educated and better skilled labor, the gulf between rich and poor regions widens. While central governments in unitary states are relatively unconstrained in their choice of policies for reducing regional disparities, in a federation the division of powers curtails federal flexibility in policy choice. Thus in federal states large regional disparities can represent serious threats, with the state's inability to deal with such inequities creating potential for disunity and, in extreme cases, for disintegration. Inequalities beyond a threshold may lead to calls for separation by both the richest and the poorest regions. While the poorest regional may consider the inequalities a manifestation of regional injustice, the richest regions may view the union with the poorest regions as holding them back in their drive toward prosperity. Under these circumstances, there is a presumption in development economics that decentralized fiscal arrangements would lead to ever widening regional inequalities. The authors provide an empirical test of this hypothesis. The authors conclude that regional development policies have failed in almost all countries, federal and unitary alike. Among 10 countries with high or substantial regional income inequality, only one (Thailand) has experienced convergence in regional incomes. Still, federal countries do better in restraining regional inequalities, because of the greater political risk these disparities pose for such countries. The authors classify countries by degree of convergence in regional incomes: a) Countries experiencing regional income divergence - Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Romania, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. b) Countries experiencing no significant change in regional income variation - Canada and Mexico. c) Countries experiencing regional income convergence - Chile, Pakistan, Thailand, the United States, and Uzbekistan. Regional development outcomes observed in these countries provide a revealing look at the impact of regional development policies. While countries experiencing divergence tend to focus on interventionist policies, those experiencing convergence have taken a hands-off approach to regional development and instead focused on promoting an economic union by removing barriers to factor mobility and ensuring minimum standards in basic services across the nation. In Chile, for example, convergence in regional incomes is largely attributable to liberalizing the economy and removing distortions so that regions could discover their own comparative advantage. In Pakistan and the United States convergence is attributable to greater factor mobility. Paradoxically, creating a level playing field helps disadvantaged regions more than do paternalistic protectionist policies.
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    Lessons from European Union Policies for Regional Development
    ( 2009-06-01) Shankar, Raja ; Shah, Anwar
    Regional disparities present an ever present development challenge in most countries, especially those with large geographic areas under their jurisdiction. A neglect of these inequities may create the potential for disunity and, in extreme cases, for disintegration. In view of this, most countries actively pursue policies with a view to helping lagging regions catch up with faster growing regions. These policies have at best a mixed record of success. It is therefore useful to discern what type of policies work and why? In this context learning from the experience of the European Union (EU) may be particularly instructive as, over the years, it has provided significant support to assist poorer regions achieve convergence with the richer regions. This paper reviews the impact of EU policies for regional development to draw lessons of interest to other countries pursuing similar goals. The paper concludes that policies that serve to create an internal common market by creating a level playing field that enables poorer regions to integrate with the broader national and global economies have the best potential to advance regional income convergence. In this context, removal of barriers to trade and factor mobility and providing enhanced access to information and technology to the lagging regions should be main policy priorities for regional development.