Globalisation

By Mthuli Ncube and Michael Fairbanks

Which is more probable: Africa becomes a virtual international province of China, the main source of its sub-soil assets, and the major component of China’s strategy for its own domestic stability; or China becomes a way African nations upgrade their economies and integrate into the global value chain for manufacturing. The answer lies in the demographics of China, and what African nations decide to do next.

The greatest challenges facing China are an ageing population, gender disparity, migration to cities, rural health care and income inequality. Poverty declined from more than 60 per cent to less than 7 per cent since 1978, eradicating more poverty than in the rest of human history. That happened because of China’s “going out” into the world strategy and Africa is, arguably, the most important part of that strategy. 

By Heleen Mees

There is a fierce debate over the origins of the disappointing economic growth seen in advanced economies. On one side there is former world chess champion and political activist Garry Kasparov and internet entrepreneur Peter Thiel, while on the other, there is Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard economist.

Mr Rogoff, who authored This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly (2009) with Carmen Reinhart, argues that the systemic financial crisis is the root cause of the prolonged economic slump in the western world. In their research, Mr Rogoff and Ms Reinhart found economic growth following a systemic financial crisis to be about a full percentage point below trend growth.

Mr Kasparov and Mr Thiel, on the other side, disavow Mr Rogoff’s claim that the collapse of advanced-country growth is the result of the financial crisis. In their view, the flailing western economies reflect stagnating technological development and innovation, and without radical changes in innovation policy, advanced economies are unlikely to see any prolonged pickup in productivity growth. 

Shankar Acharya

By Shankar Acharya

What might 2011 hold for us? Given the intrinsic uncertainty about the future, the really honest answer would be: I don’t know. But that would be far too boring a response and, perhaps more to the point, would not fill a column. So, at the risk of looking foolish in a year’s time, here are some predictions for 2011. 

By Kevin P Gallagher

Developing a sovereign debt crisis management regime should be at the top of the G20’s agenda.

As Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff show in This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly banking crises are often followed by sovereign debt crises. Europe’s debt crisis might be topping the headlines now, but the problem won’t end here.

Reinhart and Rogoff find that the debt/GDP threshold where nations slip into crises has historically been 30-35 per cent of GDP.  According to the World Bank more than 60, mostly developing, countries reached that threshold in 2008.  A 2009 IMF report, which examined 71 low-income countries, suggested 28 of the poorest nations are at high risk of debt crises. 

By Michael Pomerleano

Developing and developed countries alike are inextricably connected in the international financial system. Yet this system is heading into strong headwinds and a dangerous period in which vulnerabilities will increase in the international financial system. 

Anybody who looks carefully at the world economy will recognise that a degree of monetary and fiscal stimulus unprecedented in peacetime is all that is prodding it along, not only in high-income countries, but also in big emerging ones. The conventional wisdom is that it will also be possible to manage a smooth exit. Nothing seems less likely. So let us consider the endgame, instead.

The remainder of this column can be read here. Please post comments below.

So what did I make of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos? It felt like sitting at the bedside of somebody who had survived a heart attack but was unsure how long it would take to recover full vigour, if, indeed, he would at all. The mood of “Davos men” (yes, they mostly still are) was, as my colleague, Gideon Rachman, has pointed out, one of anxiety. Meanwhile, the participants in a still predominantly western meeting looked at the youthful vigour of emerging economies with admiration, envy and even fear.

For me, the highlight of the programme was the economic outlook session on Saturday.* This is not only because I was moderator. The starting point for the discussion was an obvious one: the policy interventions of late 2008 and 2009 have been a resounding success. The outcome has been a far briefer and shallower recession than most participants imagined a year ago. That is obvious from the successive consensus of forecasts for 2010. For almost every significant economy, the forecast for growth this year is higher than it was a year or even six months ago (see charts). The world economy survived the heart attack in the financial system. 

The only truly global power was in rapid relative decline. Not long before, it had won a pyrrhic victory in a costly colonial war. New great powers were on the rise. An arms race was under way, as was competition for markets and resources in undeveloped areas of the world. Yet people still believed in the durability of the free trade and free capital flows that had nurtured prosperity and, many believed, had also underpinned peace.

That was how the world looked to many at the end of the “noughties” of the 20th century. Yet catastrophe lay ahead: a world war; a communist revolution; a Great Depression; fascism; and then another world war. The world order – built on competing great powers, imperialism and liberal markets – proved incapable of providing the public goods of peace and prosperity. It took calamity, the cold war and the replacement of the UK by the US as hegemonic power to re-establish stability. That then facilitated decolonisation, unprecedented economic expansion, the collapse of communism and yet another epoch of market-led global integration. 

From FT:

Time for the ECB to get serious about the overvalued euro – Willem Buiter 

Pinn illustration

Is the current crisis a watershed, with market-led globalisation, financial capitalism and western domination on the one side and protectionism, regulation and Asian predominance on the other? Or will historians judge it, instead, as an event caused by fools, signifying little? My own guess is that it will end up in between. It is neither a Great Depression, because the policy response has been so determined, nor capitalism’s 1989.