Person: Benjamin, Nancy Claire
Poverty Reduct & Econ. Mgmt Dept, Middle East & North Africa Region, World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Public Sector; International Trade; Regulation
Poverty Reduct & Econ. Mgmt Dept, Middle East & North Africa Region, World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated: January 31, 2023
I am a native of California and received my PhD in economics from UC Berkeley. I worked as an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University, in the Asia Department of the IMF and in the Research Department of the US International Trade Commission. I have published widely on resource-rich countries, the impact of trade policy on productivity and growth, nontariff barriers, and on trade in services. Since joining the World Bank, I have worked on West African and Middle Eastern countries, focusing on public expenditures, growth and governance. I also worked on mutli-country projects in Africa and the regulation of multi-country infrastructure. My greatest pleasure is working closely with our client countries.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
PublicationRegionalizing Infrastructure for Deepening Market Integration : The Case of East Africa(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-06) Kessides, Ioannis N.; Benjamin, Nancy C.The East African Community has long recognized that regional economic integration can yield significant welfare gains to its member states. To that end, the community has been making steady progress towards the removal of tariffs and quantitative restrictions to trade. Moreover, in recent years, there has been an increasing recognition that: (a) even greater welfare gains could be realized through deeper forms of regional integration which entail harmonization of legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks; and (b) reforms that reduce cross-border transaction costs and improve the performance of "backbone" infrastructure services are arguably even more important for the creation of an open, unified regional economic space than trade policy reforms narrowly defined. Disparities of regulatory treatment across borders can introduce distortions that hinder both cross-border trade and the aggregate flows of investment on a regional basis. Regulatory harmonization and infrastructure regionalization could make a significant contribution to the region's economic development by promoting a more efficient utilization of its human and physical resources, enhancing connectivity, reducing the costs of trade, and facilitating the integration of the continent with the global economy. PublicationInformal Economy and the World Bank(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-05) Benjamin, Nancy; Beegle, KathleenMany countries have expressed an interest in the size, performance and motivation of the informal sector, especially where the informal sector provides the livelihood and employment for a critical segment of the population. This essay reviews recent literature, methodologies, and relevant Bank studies as a way to share information with country teams interested in expanding their knowledge of the informal sector and related policy debates. Research in a number of regions points to four main areas where development policy can be improved by taking the informal sector into account. First, improvements should be made along a continuum; the heterogeneity among informal firms points to different policy approaches for different types of firms. Second, there should be public-private collaboration on mutual reforms. Many efforts to improve firm performance focus on elements of the production function (labor skills, credit) while treating government mainly as a cost (taxes, cost of compliance with regulations). Yet research reveals that many characteristics of the public regime strongly influence the decisions of firms regarding informality. Third, research indicates a strong relation between basic skills and labor outcomes, particularly in the informal sector, despite the sector's lower average returns. Research also indicates the benefits of targeted training programs. Business services programs have a decidedly mixed record, yet ongoing research is refining results on what works best. Fourth, informal trade is pervasive in developing countries and the networks developed in informal trade -- wholesalers, credit suppliers and money-changers, transporters -- are a strong presence in the informal sector. Yet these kinds of complex and nontransparent trading systems can be discouraging to foreign investors and can otherwise undermine trade policy and the international competitiveness of developing countries. The paper concludes with recommendations. PublicationThe Informal Sector in Francophone Africa : Firm Size, Productivity, and Institutions(Washington, DC: World Bank and Agence Française de Développement, 2012) Benjamin, Nancy; Diop, Ibrahima Thione; Golub, Stephen S.; Haughton, Dominique; Niang, Birahim BounaThis book is a major step towards improving the understanding of the complex reality of informal sector firms in francophone West Africa. It innovates by concentrating on informal firms rather than informal employment (as other studies do), and identifying 'large informal' sector firms whose sales rival those of large formal-sector firms but operate in ways that are similar to small informal operators. Not only is the regulatory environment facing these two types of informal firms distinct, but policies aimed at improving their productivity need to be differentiated. This study focuses on the urban informal sector in three capital cities: Dakar (Senegal), Cotonou (Benin), and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). The study also breaks new ground with an eclectic methodology and primary data collection. Quantitative and qualitative firm-level data were collected involving a unique and fruitful collaboration among academic researchers, government officials, the West African economic and monetary union commission, informal and formal sector business associations, and labor unions. This volume represents the culmination of a long collaboration between the Centre de Recherches Economiques Appliquees (CREA) at the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar and the World Bank. PublicationInformality, Trade Policies and Smuggling in West Africa(Taylor and Francis, 2015-10-05) Benjamin, Nancy; Mbaye, Ahmadou AlyIn West Africa, recorded intra-regional trade is small but informal cross-border trade (ICBT) is pervasive, despite regional integration schemes intended to promote official trade. We argue that ICBT must be understood in light of two features of West African national boundaries: divergent economic policies between neighboring countries and the ease with which informal operators can ship goods across borders. We focus on two ICBT clusters: Senegal–The Gambia and Nigeria–Benin–Togo. Nigeria and Senegal have protected their domestic industries with high import barriers, whereas Benin, Togo and The Gambia have maintained lower import taxation. These differential trade policies, together with high mobility of goods and people across borders, lead to widespread smuggling, with goods imported legally in low-tax countries and re-exported unofficially to countries with higher import duties. PublicationEstimating Informal Trade across Tunisia's Land Borders(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-12) Ayadi, Lotfi; Benjamin, Nancy; Bensassi, Sami; Raballand, GaëlThis paper uses mirror statistics and research in the field to estimate the magnitude of Tunisia's informal trade with Libya and Algeria. The aim is to assess the scale of this trade and to evaluate the amount lost in taxes and duties as a result as well as to assess the local impact in terms of income generation. The main findings show that within Tunisian trade as a whole, informal trade accounts for only a small share (5 percent of total imports). However, informal trade represents an important part of the Tunisia's bilateral trade with Libya and Algeria, accounting for more than half the official trade with Libya and more than total official trade with Algeria. The main reasons behind this large-scale informal trade are differences in the levels of subsidies on either side of the border as well as the varying tax regimes. Tackling informal trade is not simply a question of stepping up the number of controls and sanctions, because differences in prices lead to informal trade (and to an increase in corruption levels among border officials) even in cases where the sanctions are severe. As local populations depend on cross-border trade for income generation, they worry about local authorities taking action against cross-border trade. At the same time, customs officials are concerned about the risk of local protests if they strictly enforce the tariff regimes in place. This issue will become even more significant if fuel prices in Tunisia rise again as a result of a reduction in the levels of domestic subsidies. PublicationRegionalizing Telecommunications Reform in West Africa(2009-11-01) Kessides, Ioannis N.; Noll, Roger G.; Benjamin, Nancy C.In recent years, there has been an increasing recognition that significant welfare gains could be realized through deep forms of regional integration which entail harmonization of legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks. Reforms that reduce cross-border transaction costs and improve the performance of backbone infrastructure services are arguably even more important for the creation of an open, unified regional economic space than trade policy reforms narrowly defined. This paper assesses the potential gains from regionalized telecommunications policy in West Africa. To this end, the paper: (i) discusses how regional cooperation can overcome national limits in technical expertise, enhance the capacity of nations credibly to commit to stable regulatory policy, and ultimately facilitate infrastructure investment in the region; (ii) identifies trade-distorting regulations that inhibit opportunities for regional trade and economic development, and so are good candidates for regional trade negotiations to reduce indirect trade barriers; and (iii) describes substantive elements of a harmonized regional regulatory policy that can deliver immediate performance benefits.