ABCDE 2011: Keynote address by Daniel Cohen

Daniel Cohen, Professor of Economics at the École Normale Supérieure and Paris I University, and Director of the Centre for Economic Research and Application (CEPREMAP) of the Paris School of Economics offered his views on factor accumulation, culture and institutions in his keynote speech at the ABCDE 2011 event.

Daniel Cohen, Paris School of Economics (PSE), speaking at the ABCDE 2011

Daniel Cohen, Paris School of Economics (PSE), speaking at the ABCDE 2011

Mr. Cohen stated that the world has been changing quite significantly over the past few decades and that we are witnessing the “rise of the rest” in terms of population and GDP.

What are the causes of these changes and what the consequences on global economy and culture? According to Cohen, scholars tend to explain these changes through different elements, such as factor accumulation, productivity, the role of institutions and cultural shifts. Mr. Cohen presented an overview of the different theories. In his own opinion, everything matters. In particular, according to Mr. Cohen today’s globalization is primarily driven by exogenous policy changes (rise of India and China, in a large part due to the collapse of the Soviet model) and endogenous cultural shifts (demography, television and social media such as Facebook). Yet, the idea that peace and democracy are endogenously determined by prosperity goes too far. Peace and democracy have a life of their own.


ABCDE 2011 Plenary Session 3: Human capital formation, training and youth

Moderated by OECD Deputy Director Stefano Scarpetta, the third plenary session at the ABCDE 2011 event featured two presentations from Janet Currie (Columbia University) and Rodrigo Soares (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro).

Mrs. Currie presented the results of her study on the effects of  early life health on adult health, education and earnings.  The research findings suggest that  there is a strong correlation between inequality among adults and early health. The question is therefore how policy can mitigate the long-lasting consequences of inequality in health at birth.

From his side, Mr. Soares shared with the audience his research on crime entry and exit among Brazilian youth. Using data from a unique survey conducted by “Observatório de Favelas” (a Brazilian NGO) with drug-selling gangs in Rio de Janeiro, the study tries to understand who these groups attract, the typical “careers” of teenagers within these organizations, and the potential exit strategies available.

After the session, we had the opportunity to record a short video interview with Mr. Yaw Nyarko (New York University), one of the discussants in the session. Mr. Nyarko argued that the the findings of the research on youth gangs in Brazil can be relevant for Africa as well. Several African countries are in fact experiencing an increase in the presence of gangs. According to Mr. Nyarko, education is key to keep the youth out of gang activities and offer them alternatives for a better future.

ABCDE 2011: Keynote address by Andrés Velasco

Andrés Velasco, former Finance Minister of Chile and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the Center for International Development (Harvard University) addressed the connection between employment, income distribution and inequality in his keynote speech at the ABCDE 2011 event.

Andrés Velasco, Harvard University

According to Mr. Velasco, Chile is an unequal country. The country went from being pre-industrial to post-industrial without ever being industrial. To reduce inequality in Chile,  Mr. Velasco reiterated the necessity to improve child care and urban housing, introduce flexible working hours and provide information on job availability. He also highlighted the importance of creating linkages between commodities and value added around those commodities. Mr. Velasco concluded by stating that there is no one factor that keeps poor people from regular employment, and “therefore there is no one solution”.

On the correlation between inequality and income growth in Latin America, Velasco clearly stated that Latin America has failed to grow much over the past years, part of it because of inequality which is mainly due to bad policies.

ABCDE 2011: Keynote address by Amartya Sen

An inspiring keynote address provided participants of the ABCDE 2011 event with great food for thought and set the tone for the discussions that will inform this year conference.

Amartya Sen (Harvard University) at the ABCDE 2011

Amartya Sen, Harvard University, at the ABCDE 2011

Professor Amartya Sen, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University and formerly Honorary President of OXFAM, focussed his speech on the issue of growth-mediated development. According to Mr. Sen, a rapid  economic growth can have positive effects on development and poverty reduction. It reduces public debt and deficit and can enhance living standards and quality of life of the people. However, this depends also very much on how public policies make effective of the surplus generated by economic growth.

According to Mr. Sen, there are different approaches of economic mediated growth. In this sense, China and India have been using the revenues of economic growth in different ways, with China making greater use of these revenues for development purposes.

Mr. Sen went on underlining the need to combine growth mediated development with democratic governance: the decisions about public policies need to emerge for a transparent, open debate, where the public is engaged in demanding justice and development. In India, there is public debate around economic policies but the level of engagement is still low and involves only a minority of Indian. It is therefore important to broaden the rhetoric of development so to make sure that the economic growth benefits an increasing percentage of the population.

Finally, Mr. Sen concluded his talk with few reflections on the economic crisis that is shaking Europe and its common currency. In his views, today’s Europe needs broad democratic public reasoning and growth mediated development; this experience will be valuable not only for Western countries but for developing countries as well.

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ABCDE 2011: Broadening opportunities for development

With almost 700 registered participants, the 2011 Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) will take place in Paris from 30 May to 1 June 2011, co-hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industry, and the World Bank.

ABCDE is the world’s best-known conference for the presentation and discussion of new knowledge on development economics. The conference aims at promoting the exchange of ideas among researchers, policymakers, and students interested in development issues.  The overall theme of  this year’s conference is Broadening Opportunities for Development and the specific sub-themes are inequity, job creation, youth, social protection and gender equity.

A series of online platforms and channels have been set up to broaden the conversations beyond the face-to-face meeting in Paris:

GDNet will be working with the conference communication team to highlight Southern voices and institutions and areas of interest to GDN.