Saturday, May 15, 2010

WIDER Panel: Looking to the Future

Pedro Couto of Mozambique's Finance Ministry
Ravi Kanbur of Cornell
Tony Addison of WIDER
Pedro Couto

We were not only told to be heterodox, but to be heterodox about heterodoxy! So there is room for orthodoxy.
Africa was doing well before the crisis, but not well enough - deep structural problems that still need to be addressed. The crisis was on top of another crisis that we do not do what we need to.
VietNam a few years ago was worse off than we are in Africa. Agricultural productivity growth to compete and export is possible. This goes beyond food security, beyond business, beyond skills. Proper agriculture policy is life.
We have to keep connection with each other because we are about to return to reality. In government we have to discuss something physical and with high risks. Because when you fail, it's not very good. We must be orthodox in transparency and punishing inappropriate behavior.
Use your influence to lobby to help WB, IMF, OECD, etc. to keep their aid promises.

Ravi Kanbur
2 definitions of crisis: 1) a medium term adverse trend; 2) short, sharp shocks that come and go. This is based on my paper, Protecting the Poor Against the Next Crisis on my [Ravi Kanbur's] website.
2 types of uncertainty: which thing will it be and when will it hit & recede? 2 principles: comprehensiveness in social protection since you don't know which; and flexibility because you don't know when. If you wait until it hits, the response will come to late.
Researchers need to ID gaps in the social protection system. Stress test the social protection system.
gaps in flexibility ex: food grants easy to scale up hard to scale down; work programs easy to scale down hard to scale up.
Arrange pre-qualified lines of credit for countries and crisis triggers, rather than trying to figure out what to do when it hits. IMF is doing this for middle income countries. EU does it for commodities. Catastrophic loan agreement: signed for 6 years, when natural catastrophe happens, you draw down the loan. We need to expand these to LDCs.

Tony Addison
We have many models of growth, not enough discussion of problems with growth. We need to think more about ethics and help people see where economists disagree and why.
"Economics was invented to make astrology look like a respectable science."
We need to know the prices of interest, fuel, food, & carbon and the volume of trade. Tell me those and I can produce great growth estimates.
We are uncertain about food price trend, but are certain of spikes.
Why is the UN involved in economics? Economics is critical to maintenance of world peace.

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