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  • Economic Development: Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure x
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Mr. Marshall B Reinsdorf
COVID-19 changed consumers’ spending patterns, making the CPI weights suddenly obsolete. In most regions, adjusting the CPI weights to account for the changes in spending patterns increases the estimate of inflation over the early months of the pandemic. Under-weighting of rising food prices and over-weighting of falling transport prices are the main causes of the underestimation of inflation. Updated CPI weights should be developed as soon as is feasible, but flux in spending patterns during the pandemic complicates the development as quickly as 2021 of weights that represent post-pandemic spending patterns.
Mariya Brussevich
This study examines the socio-economic impact of special economic zones (SEZs) in Cambodia---a prominent place-based policy established in 2005. The paper employs a database on existing and future SEZs in Cambodia with matched household surveys at the district level and documents stylized facts on SEZs in a low-income country setting. To identify causal effects of the SEZ program, the paper (i) constructs an alternative control group including future SEZ program participants and districts adjacent to SEZ hosts; and (ii) employs a propensity score weighting technique. The study finds that entry of SEZs disproportionately benefits female workers and leads to a decline of income inequality at a district level. However, the findings also suggest that land values in SEZ districts tend to rise while wage levels remain largely unchanged relative to other districts. In addition, the paper tests for socio-economic spillovers to surrounding areas and for agglomeration effects associated with clusters of multiple SEZs.
Mr. Adrian Alter and Elizabeth M. Mahoney
To identify and quantify downside risks to housing markets, we apply the house price-at-risk methodology to a sample of 37 cities across the United States and Canada using quarterly data from 1983 to 2018. This paper finds that downside risks to housing markets in the United States have seemingly fallen over the past decade, while having increased in Canada. Supply-side drivers, valuation, household debt, and financial conditions jointly play a key role in forecasting house price risks. In addition, capital flows are found to be significantly associated with future downside risks to major housing markets, but the net effect depends on the type of flows and varies across cities and forecast horizons. Using micro-level data, we identify households vulnerable to potential housing shocks and assess the riskiness of household debt.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
The Irish economy continues to expand strongly, benefitting from higher net exports by multinational enterprises and robust domestic demand. Accelerating wage growth reflects tight labor market conditions and inflation has started to pick up. Crisis legacies have diminished but some vulnerabilities persist. The outlook remains broadly positive, provided Brexit proceeds in an orderly manner. However, the economy operates near full capacity and an accelerating cyclical momentum could re-ignite a boom-bust dynamic. A no-deal Brexit represents the key downside risk, while escalation in global protectionism and sudden changes in corporate tax planning of multinational enterprises in Ireland could adversely affect the economy and public finances.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Hong Kong SAR’s economy benefitted from a strong cyclical upswing through the first half of 2018, supported by the continued global recovery, buoyant domestic sentiment, and the booming property market. However, near-term risks have significantly increased – including those from trade tensions, tighter global financial conditions, and capital outflows from emerging markets. Also, long-term challenges, including from aging, elevated inequality, and the persistent housing shortage, need to be tackled. Prudent macroeconomic policies and ample buffers are in place to help smoothen the transition and ensure continued stability.
Sriram Balasubramanian and Mr. Paul Cashin
This paper examines the origins and use of the concept of Gross National Happiness (or subjective well-being) in the Kingdom of Bhutan, and the relationship between measured well-being and macroeconomic indicators. While there are only a few national surveys of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, the concept has been used to guide public policymaking for the country’s various Five-Year Plans. Consistent with the Easterlin Paradox, available evidence indicates that Bhutan’s rapid increase in national income is only weakly associated with increases in measured levels of well-being. It will be important for Bhutan to undertake more frequent Gross National Happiness surveys and evaluations, to better build evidence for comovement of well-being and macroeconomic concepts such as real national income.
Yang Yang
This paper examines the impact of highway expansion on aggregate productivity growth and sectoral reallocation between cities in China. To do so, I construct a unique dataset of bilateral transportation costs between Chinese cities, digitized highway network maps, and firm-level census. I first derive and estimate a market access measure that summarizes all direct and indirect impact of trade costs on city productivity. I then construct an instrumental variable to examine the causal impact of highways on economic outcomes and the underlying channels. The results suggest that highways promoted aggregate productivity growth by facilitating firm entry, exit and reallocation. I also find evidence that the national highway system led to a sectoral reallocation between cities in China.