Monday, February 25, 2013

Emerging cities: Future economic centers of the world

McKinsey Quarterly has an interesting analysis about the future economic centers of gravity in the world, i.e. cities. It also ranks emerging cities based on population, GDP, floor space, municipal water and containers.

It estimates that by 2025, emerging cities will create over 4 billion “consumer class” with a total demand potential of $25 trillion. Here is a link to an illustrative chart on emerging global cities. Unfortunately, none of the cities in Nepal feature in the list. But, the emerging cities with high-income consumers are mostly from China and India, the two countries that share borders with Nepal.

Excerpts from the report:

Our research indicates that 440 emerging-market cities, very few of them “megacities,” will account for close to half of expected global GDP growth between 2010 and 2025 (Exhibit 1). Crafting and implementing strategies that emphasize such cities will require new attention from senior leaders, new organizational structures that take account of urban rather than just regional or national markets, and potentially difficult choices about which activities to scale back elsewhere to free up resources for new thrusts.

Companies that adopt such a strategic approach may gain early-mover benefits. For some, developing better insights into demographic and income trends—such as an understanding of the urban areas where the population of older, wealthier consumers is growing most rapidly—will be sufficient. Others may need to dig deeper, learning the market dynamics of specific products in target cities. To illustrate the different panoramas of opportunity that appear when companies use a city-specific lens, we looked at five business sectors, each with different demand profiles. We then ranked cities with the highest growth potential for each of the sectors. Among the takeaways:

  • Companies marketing health care products to seniors would find Shanghai and Beijing topping the list of cities with growing populations of older consumers whose incomes are sufficiently high (above $20,000 on a purchasing-power-parity basis) to afford these products. Tokyo and Osaka are the only developed-world cities among the top ten—a sign that well-off, aging consumers no longer are found exclusively in developed markets.
  • Baby food is at the other end of the age spectrum. Combining income and demographic data—in particular, the numbers of households with young children—we found that cities in Africa offer great potential. More than half of the top ten cities enjoying rapid growth in the number of children who live in households with incomes from $7,500 to $20,000 (on a purchasing-power-parity basis) are in Africa.
  • São Paulo, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Shanghai rank highest in a targeted analysis of market growth for laundry products. In fact, over the next decade, São Paulo will experience more growth in the sale of detergents and related cleaning products than the national markets of France or Malaysia will. That’s just a small shard in the global-consumption mosaic for emerging cities. We project that urban consumers in developing countries will spend an additional $14 trillion annually by 2025.
  • By 2025, cities worldwide will need to spend at least $10 trillion more per year on physical capital—everything from office towers to new port facilities—than they do today. In building construction, the new floor space required will be equivalent to 85 percent of today’s entire residential and commercial building stock; 40 percent of that growth will be in Chinese cities.
  • Urban water-related infrastructure, another pressing need, will require $480 billion in global investment by 2025, with 80 percent of that flowing to emerging-market cities. Mumbai and Delhi will be the leaders in that spending.

Read more here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New infrastructure and economic activities

Here is an interesting news story about the multiplier effect from increased road connectivity. Want to boost local economic activities and income? Connect villages and districts with new and better infrastructure (roads, bridges, telephone, irrigation, etc.). The news story states that income of orange farmers has gone up five folds after increased connectivity. There are positive externalities as well (e.g., new education institutions are established).

The construction of the Surkhet-Jumla stretch of the Karnali Highway has brought about tangible changes in the lives of locals of Pili and surrounding villages in Kalikot district. The Pili village has now become a business hub for the eastern belt of the district, where people from over two dozen VDCs run hotels, stationery shops and groceries.
As local produce now reaches the market with ease, locals have started adopting agriculture and animal husbandry and have bought plots of land in towns such as the district headquarters of Manma and Surkhet with the income. The price of land in Pili has also gone up, thanks to the road access.
Local farmer Jaya Bahadur Shahi said locals are  now finding it easier to ferry their produce to Jumla and elsewhere after a suspension bridge was built at Talasera, linking Pili with Gela VDC.
Farmer Padam Malla said that earlier they sold an orange for Rs 1, but now the same orange goes for Rs 5.
The Kalika Secondary School (KSS) has been established in the village itself, giving the local children easy access to education. Earlier, the children had to walk four hours to the nearest lower and secondary level schools. Local teacher Purna Bahadur Shahi said the road has helped people “become independent.”
Hamsha Bahadur Shahi, headmaster of the KSS, said the new road has kept local people in the villages as now they don’t have to look for job opportunities elsewhere.
Local resident Raj Bahadur Malla echoed Shahi and recalled how he had to set out for India in search of jobs in the past. “I am now earning Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 a month here,” said Raj Bahadur, who runs a hotel and a grocery store in his 12-room house in Pili.

Now, with the new infrastructure in place, there also should be enough funds for operation and maintenance of such infrastructure. It will help ensure sustainability of such productive investments.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mid-year review of FY2013 budget scales back GDP growth to 4.1%

The Ministry of Finance has released a mid-year review of budget for FY2013. At the outset note that this year Nepal is not having a full budget so far due to lack of political consensus as the opposition parties contend that the caretaker government prior to election is not authorized to launch full budget with new programs and policies. Consequently, Nepal had a one-third budget in July 2012 and followed by two-third budget in November 2012.

It means the economy still doesn’t have a full budget. Now, readers might be wondering what is the big deal if things are going fine. Well, a full budget comes with around six associated bills, including those on revenue policies and internal borrowing. Revenue policies are guided by Finance Act 2012 and internal borrowing is not allowed right now. Furthermore, the present budget is pretty much the same size as of last year’s actual expenditure. Considering inflation of above 10%, we are actually seeing a real contraction of spending allocation, let alone the capacity to spend given the political difficulties.

Anyway, here are some of the relevant stuff from the mid-year review:

  • GDP growth rate for FY2013 revised to 4.1% from 5.1% considering the impact of unfavorable monsoon and low capital expenditure.
      • Projected agriculture sector growth: 0.7%
      • Projected non-agriculture sector growth: 5.4%
  • Total expenditure stood at 29.59% of total allocation. Capital expenditure was around 15% (Rs 7.66 billion) of the allocated amount for FY2013 (Rs 51.3 billion). All expenditures (recurrent and capital) are lower than what was achieved in the first half of FY2012 (overall down by 6.3%). Recurrent expenditure is down by 3.05% and capital expenditure by 19.90%.
  • Revenue mobilization was Rs 134.56 billion, 2.04% higher than the target.
  • Average inflation was 10.7%.
  • Exports increased by 9.3% and imports by 25.2%. Balance of payments surplus dropped to Rs 6.7 billion.
  • A number of important projects—especially those tagged as national pride projects— have seen some progress.
  • Private sector added 30 MW electricity to the national grid. More power imports from India and 38 MW electricity generation from thermal and diesel plants helped contain power cuts to around 12 hours a day.
  • Deposits of BFIs increased by 4.8%, but loans increased by 5.3%. Liquidity declined by 15.1% (down by Rs 30.30 billion) as the government could not spend enough and banks could not attract deposits with relatively low interest rates.

The revised GDP growth figure still looks quite optimistic given the continued slowdown in construction sector and slowing down of growth of remittance inflows, which will then hit services sector growth. Earlier, the IMF, ADB, and the WB estimated GDP growth at 3.8%. The IMF recently indicated that it expects growth to fall below 3.8% estimate.

Also, though the capital spending is low, we might see pick up in spending in the last three months of FY2013 as in the previous years. But, overall spending level might fall short of the already low level reached in FY2012 (dropped to 3.3% of GDP from 7.9% of GDP in FY2011).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Boosting capacities of existing firms to increase export growth

A very interesting paper by Cebeci et al. based on Exporter Dynamics Database, which has measures on exporter characteristics and dynamics based on firm-level customs information from 38 developing countries and seven developed countries.  Excerpts from the paper:

This paper introduces the Exporter Dynamics Database. The database includes exporter characteristics and measures of exporter growth based on firm-level customs information from 38 developing and seven developed countries, primarily for the period between 2003 and 2010. The measures are available at different levels of aggregation, including: a) country-year, b) country-year-product, and c) country-year-destination. Several new stylized facts about exporter behavior across countries emerge from the database. (i) Larger or more developed economies have more exporters, larger and more diversified exporters, and lower entry and exit rates than smaller or developing economies. (ii) In the short run, expansions along the intensive margin (exporter size) contribute more to export growth than expansions along the extensive margin (number of exporters). (iii) Exit rates are highly correlated with entry rates and both are negatively correlated with survival rates, average exporter size, and diversification. (iv) The number of exporters and the entry and exit rates in a country-product group are partially driven by country and product-group effects; however, the average size of exporters in a country-product group is not. Although the first three facts can be explained by models incorporating firm heterogeneity and uncertainty, the fourth fact is more difficult to explain with existing models. Several findings are confirmed in this database, including the importance of large multi-product firms. This database can be a valuable tool to improve the understanding of the micro-foundations of export growth, by providing new insights about exporter characteristics and dynamics.

Though Nepal is not included in the database, an important finding of the paper that is directly relevant to Nepal’s trade sector is that increasing export growth in the short run is possible by expanding capacities of existing exporters rather than promoting entry of new exporters or concessions in export market destinations. In Nepal’s context, it would mean boosting capacities of those exporting firms performing below capacity. The findings of a recent NRB report, which found that industrial capacity utilization has merely been 58%, nicely fits with the findings of the paper by Cebeci et al. The low capacity utilization is due to lack of electricity, labor disputes, rise in cost of raw materials, and persistent supply side constraints. If Nepal wants to boost exports, then it first needs to create a conducive environment for existing firms to fully utilize their capacities.

Unfortunately, rather than working on operating existing exporting firms at full capacity, the government seems to be always asking for concessions in foreign markets. Of course, concessions in exporting destinations are important, but Nepal has to first create an environment to utilize existing firms’ capacities fully and competitively. The need is to first put the house in order before seeking concessions abroad.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Employing India: Guaranteeing jobs for the rural poor

Here are highlights from one of the latest published reports (Employing India: Guaranteeing Jobs for the Rural Poor) yours truly was involved in. It is about Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), probably the largest social protection programs in the world -- directly employing members of around 50 million rural households at a cost of less than 0.5% of GDP.

  • India faces persistent poverty and inequality despite burgeoning growth. Between 1988 and 2005 the country’s GDP almost tripled, but its poverty rate only decreased by 30 percent, underscoring the need for poverty reduction policies.
  • Under the program, members of 50 million households worked a total of 2.5 billion days in 2011.
  • The act looks to empower women, widen opportunities for marginalized population groups, and reinvigorate community decision-making bodies.
  • The program is meant to operate transparently and fight corruption, but corruption has been seen in the act’s implementation.
  • The act is having a significant impact on the lives of the poor with rural wages increasing, but its effectiveness varies according to activity and location.
  • Simulations using an economy-wide model indicate that the act has a positive macroeconomic impact, leading to increases in GDP and trade.
  • As the program shifts purchasing power from the urban rich to the rural poor, the structure of demand changes. Economic activity in agriculture, processed food, and light manufacturing increases and activity in heavy manufacturing and services declines. Likewise, the demand for unskilled labor in urban and especially rural areas increases, while the demand for mainly urban skilled labor decreases.
  • Poor households benefit from added employment opportunities, while high-income households might suffer from weaker demand.
  • The act is likely increasing land productivity, which boosts GDP and opens the opportunity to introduce incentives to investment while keeping tax rates constant.
  • Given India’s weak institutional setting, a new way of doing business is necessary to implement the act’s detailed and ambitious procedures. Institutions must solidify processes for making information transparently available, and communities need to be involved in creating and managing projects.
  • The act is a work in progress that needs ongoing evaluation to fully succeed and keep the corruption affecting the program’s implementation in check.

Below is a brief of the report:

I will have more from the report in another blog post.

Friday, February 8, 2013

How close is Nepal to achieving the MDGs?

Since MDGs are coming to an end in 2015, global leaders, development agencies, CSOs and think-tanks are already talking about post-MDG framework and targets. One proposal is to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the last Rio+20 Summit, Nepal proposed focusing on food security and sustainable agriculture; water and sanitation; energy; sustainable cities; natural disaster; green job and social inclusion; and mountain ecosystem. As this discussion moves ahead and the global team of experts come up with some kind of quantifiable development targets for the post-MDG era, it is time to take a look at the achievements made thus far in achieving the MDGs.

Here, I am presenting a table showing the latest achievement and the target in 2015. The information is sourced from MDG Progress Report for Nepal 2010, Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2011, CBS and WB. Targets in parentheses are the revised ones as per Needs Assessment Report, Table 5.A.1. The table shows that Nepal is unlikely to achieve the target of reducing the proportion of employed people living on less than US$1.25 per day (PPP); increasing proportion of births attended by skilled birth attendant; and increasing proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility. All other targets are either achieve, likely to be achieved or potentially likely to be achieved.

Progress against MDGs target
MDGs Specific goals Latest achievement  Target in 2015 Scenario 2015
MDG 1 Proportion of population living on less than US$ 1.25 per day (PPP) (%) 24.8 17 Likely
Proportion of population below national poverty line (%) 25.2 21 Likely
Proportion of employed people living on less than US$ 1.25 per day (PPP) (%) 22 17 Unlikely
Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption (%) 36.1 25 Potentially likely
Proportion of underweight children aged 6–59 months (%) 28.8 29 Likely
Proportion of stunted children aged 6–59 months (%) 41 30  
MDG 2 Net enrolment rate in primary education (%) 91.9 100 Potentially likely
Survival rate to Grade 5 (%) 80.6 100  
Literacy rate for 15–24 years old (%) 88.6 100  
MDG 3 Ratio of girls to boys at primary level 0.9 1 Likely
Ratio of girls to boys at secondary level  1 1 Achieved
Ratio of women to men at tertiary level 0.8 1 Potentially likely
Ratio of literate women to men aged 15–24 years 0.83 1 Potentially likely
MDG 4 Proportion of one-year-old children immunized against measles (%) 88 >90  
Under-five mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)  54 54 (38)  
Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) 46 34 (32) Likely
MDG 5 Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births)  229 213 (134) Likely
Proportion of births attended by skilled birth attendant (%) 36 60 Unlikely
MDG 6 HIV prevalence among population aged 15–49 years (%) 0.49 0.35 Likely
Clinical malaria incidence (per 1,000 population)  5.7 3.8  
Prevalence rate associated with TB (per 100,000 population)  244 210 Likely
Death rate associated with TB (per 100,000 population) 22 20 Likely
MDG 7 Area under forest coverage (%)  39.6 40 Potentially likely
Proportion of population using improved drinking water source (%) 88.6 73 Achieved
Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility (%) 39.5 53 Unlikely

Meanwhile, to achieve the MDG targets, it is estimated that Nepal will need Rs 451 billion between 2011 and 2015. The figure below shows the cumulative resource need, funding available and resource gap to meet the MDGs between 2011 and 2015. The resource gap in achieving MDG Goal 2 (education)  is about 60% of the actual expenditure (Rs 295 billion) in FY2011.

Of course, we need to be also aware of the fact that having the financial resources alone will not be sufficient to achieve the targets.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Understanding inclusive growth: Role of good governance and institutions

Inclusive growth is one of the most talked about issues in developing countries, especially those in transition, these days. It has been pretty much widely accepted that growth alone is not sufficient; it has to be followed by wider access to economic opportunities and provision of social protection for those left out of the growth process.

ADB has come up with a framework for inclusive growth, which has three main components:  (i) High and sustainable growth; (ii) Access to economic and social development opportunities; and (iii) Stronger social protection. It also has a list of 35 indicators to quantify (either directly or via proxies) inclusive growth.

The policies for inclusive growth are supported by good governance and institutions, which are quantified by looking at two components of Worldwide Governance Indicators (voice and accountability, and government effectiveness) and the corruption perception index. The information and data in this blog come from ADB’s FIGI 2012 and the related dataset (Nepal only; for other countries, see this one).


GOOD GOVERNANCE AND INSTITUTIONS 1990 or Nearest Year 2010 or Latest Year
Voice and accountability −0.1 (1996) −0.5  
Government effectiveness −0.4 (1996) −0.8  
Corruption Perceptions Index 2.2 (2010) 2.2 (2011)

The first two components of WGI are presented in standard normal units of the governance indicator, ranging from –2.5 to 2.5 with higher values corresponding to better governance outcomes. In the CPI, scores relate to perceptions of the degree of corruption and ranges from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fiscal decentralization and FDI inflows

Here (ungated version here) is an abstract from an interesting paper on fiscal decentralization and foreign direct investment in India and China. Yong Wang argues that “endogenous policies toward FDI are favorable only when both central and local governments benefit”. Fiscal decentralization has a non-monotonic and significant impact on FDI.

A political-economy model is developed to explain why fiscal decentralization may have a non-monotonic effect on FDI inflows through endogenous policies. Too much fiscal decentralization hurts central government incentives, whereas too little fiscal decentralization renders the local governments vulnerable to capture by the protectionist special interest groups. Moreover, the local government's preference for FDI can be endogenously polarized; therefore, a small change in fiscal decentralization across certain threshold values may lead to a dramatic difference in equilibrium FDI inflows. Empirical investigations support that the difference in fiscal decentralization is an important reason for the nine-fold difference in FDI per capita between China and India. Cross-country regression results also support the inverted-U relationship.

Inverted-U relationship between FDI per capita and fiscal decentralization (measured by sub-national government’s overall revenue share).

China’s central and local governments are more aggressive in enticing FDI inflows than India’s. China’s central government encourages FDI inflows by offering fiscal incentives (tax holidays and tariff waiver on imported inputs to foreign-invested firms). Furthermore, the local governments as well offer favorable policies (simple license application, lower fees for land use, provision of infrastructure, etc).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Understanding inclusive growth: Stronger social protection

Inclusive growth is one of the most talked about issues in developing countries, especially those in transition, these days. It has been pretty much widely accepted that growth alone is not sufficient; it has to be followed by wider access to economic opportunities and provision of social protection for those left out of the growth process.

ADB has come up with a framework for inclusive growth, which has three main components:  (i) High and sustainable growth; (ii) Access to economic and social development opportunities; and (iii) Stronger social protection. 

It also has a list of 35 indicators to quantify (either directly or via proxies) inclusive growth. This follow up to an earlier blog post sheds some light on the third pillar of inclusive growth, i.e. stronger social protection.

It focuses on stronger social protection to prevent extreme deprivation and reduce the effects of shocks. It components include strengthened:

    • Labor market policies and programs
    • Social insurance programs
    • Social assistance and welfare schemes
    • Child protection programs
    • Disaster management
    • Public sector management

The table below shows the quantifiable indicators for the third pillar of inclusive growth.The information and data in this blog come from ADB’s FIGI 2012 and the related dataset (Nepal only; for other countries, see this one).

Social protection 1990 or Nearest Year 2010 or Latest Year
Social protection and labor rating 3.0 (2005) 4.0 (2011)
Social security expenditure on health as a percentage of government expenditure on health 3.6 (2001) 4.6 (2009)
Government expenditure on social security and welfare as a percentage of total government expenditure 3.1 (1995) 3.2 (2011)

In the social protection and labor component, a rating of “1” corresponds to a very weak performance, and a “6” rating to a very strong performance.