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Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Mr. Tidiane Kinda, Kaustubh Chahande, Hua Chai, Yadian Chen, Alessia De Stefani, Yosuke Kido, Fan Qi, and Alexandre Sollaci
COVID-19 hit on the back of weakening productivity growth in many advanced and emerging Asian countries, a trend that could be exacerbated by the pandemic. Interestingly, productivity growth in the region was slowing even amid increased innovation effort, as proxied by spending on research and development (R&D) and number of patents. A key element underpinning this disconnect is the growing dispersion in productivity growth, innovation effort, and digitalization across and within sectors. Asia has risen to become an innovation powerhouse, contributing to more than half of world patents. The rise of Asia as an innovation hub has been driven by a few frontier countries that have experienced a sharp increase in digital and computer-related patents, supported by solid R&D spending and a large share of researchers in the labor force. Within countries, R&D has become more concentrated in a smaller share of firms in frontier Asia. Empirical evidence using firm-level data highlight that the high concentration in R&D is associated with large dispersion in productivity. External exposure to competition and innovation, including through trade, supports innovation and help close productivity gaps for firms closer to the frontier. Non-frontier Asian developing countries have benefited from technology diffusion through a higher share of imported high-technology goods and by granting more patents to non-residents, supported by improvements in human capital and digital infrastructure. For these countries, further integration to the international economy, including global value chains, greater entrepreneurship, and expanding innovative labour supply could support productivity by encouraging innovation, including process innovation which is associated with larger productivity at the firm-level. Policies to foster innovation, reduce productivity gaps, and ultimately boost aggregate productivity can be grouped into two buckets. For countries close to the technological frontier, R&D tax credits and grants, business-university R&D collaboration, and lower trade barriers would support broader-based innovation and help close productivity gaps. For countries farther from the frontier, further improvements in digital infrastructure, skilled labor force, openness to trade and FDI, and patent protection, could promote resource reallocation to the most productive firms and enhance incentives for technological adoption, supporting diffusion and higher productivity.
Reda Cherif, Fuad Hasanov, Mr. Nikola Spatafora, Rahul Giri, Dimitre Milkov, Mr. Saad N Quayyum, Mr. Gonzalo Salinas, and Mr. Andrew M. Warner
As countries strive for a strong recovery and to recoup the losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to map out a new path for development and high and sustained growth. Promoting diversification, developing new industrial capabilities, and designing the policies needed to achieve this goal should be a priority. A successful diversification strategy should tackle both broad policy failures, such as an unfavorable business environment and investment climate and sector-specific market failures. This departmental paper presents a conceptual framework to analyze industrial policy, defined as targeted sectoral interventions. The authors first discuss the key principles that should guide policymakers, that is, a focus on the market failures that could justify targeted sectoral interventions, as well as the potential government failures that can undermine these interventions. The authors then discuss some commonly employed policy tools, their rationale, and the associated pitfalls. Finally, the authors outline a stylized decision-making framework.
Jihad Dagher
Financial crises are traditionally analyzed as purely economic phenomena. The political economy of financial booms and busts remains both under-emphasized and limited to isolated episodes. This paper examines the political economy of financial policy during ten of the most infamous financial booms and busts since the 18th century, and presents consistent evidence of pro-cyclical regulatory policies by governments. Financial booms, and risk-taking during these episodes, were often amplified by political regulatory stimuli, credit subsidies, and an increasing light-touch approach to financial supervision. The regulatory backlash that ensues from financial crises can only be understood in the context of the deep political ramifications of these crises. Post-crisis regulations do not always survive the following boom. The interplay between politics and financial policy over these cycles deserves further attention. History suggests that politics can be the undoing of macro-prudential regulations.