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  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Preserving the environment is high on the agenda for both governments and society. Governments in OECD countries are using a variety of instruments to change environmentally harmful behaviour, and taxes have proved a useful string to their bow. Using taxes to achieve an environmental objective, such as reducing emissions of a particular pollutant, is efficient from an economic point of view and offers flexibility to adapt for those affected. Direct regulation of polluting activities, for example by setting legal limits on the emission level of certain pollutants, forces immediate compliance regardless of the comparative cost for different businesses and individuals, and can be more difficult and costly for some than for others. Environmental taxes leave more flexibility for those affected, because they can essentially “buy time” to make changes which will mean they do not have to pay the tax in the future. Thus, a tax on polluting activities or products allows those who can cut emissions cheaply to do so first, while allowing those with higher pollution control costs to pay the tax while taking time to make technological adjustments. This means that the economy as a whole will meet the same environmental objective more cheaply than by using direct regulation. While using taxes to achieve environmental objectives is clearly efficient for the economy as a whole, however, in practice individual businesses or sectors may resist because they will be “losers” in the equation. Governments need to address such concerns about the negative impacts of environmental taxes on sectoral competitiveness and on income distribution if environmentally related taxes are to be a useful tool. This Policy Brief looks at the political economy of environmental taxes and how governments can use them in conjunction with other policy instruments to achieve their environmental objectives.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Environment, Government, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Economic performance has been solid, and macroeconomic policies are appropriate. The economy is expected to expand by close to 3.5 per cent in 2005, and the output gap will soon be closed. Monetary stimulus should gradually be removed and the fiscal policy stance needs to remain neutral. The Canadian dollar appreciated sharply in 2003 and is now probably not far from its fundamental value. Canadian firms will need to continue to adjust by making efforts to improve productivity to maintain competitiveness. Policy makers should remain focussed on policies that enhance productivity growth across all sectors. With a sound macroeconomic framework and structural policies that are mostly conducive to a well functioning economy, the country is well placed to meet the challenges of an ageing population, namely, maintaining rises in living standards through strong rates of productivity growth and policies to attenuate the expected fall in hours worked on average across the whole population, and ensuring that public finances are sustainable, especially given pressures on health care outlays.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Turkey is at a crossroads. After hitting the most severe crisis of its recent history in 2000-2001, the economy bounced back and is now among the fastest growing economies in the OECD. A new institutional framework for monetary and fiscal policies as well as for product, labour and financial markets, infrastructure industries, and agricultural support opened a window of opportunity to escape from the three traps of low confidence, weak governance and high informality which underpinned the boom and bust cycle of the past and to embark durably on a higher growth path. Success will depend on fully implementing and completing the new policy framework.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Eastern Europe
  • Publication Date: 08-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The integrity of businesses and markets is central to the vitality and stability of our economies. So good corporate governance – the rules and practices that govern the relationship between the managers and shareholders of corporations, as well as stakeholders like employees and creditors – contributes to growth and financial stability by underpinning market confidence, financial market integrity and economic efficiency. Recent corporate scandals have focussed the minds of governments, regulators, companies, investors and the general public on weaknesses in corporate governance systems and the need to address this issue.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Road accidents are the number one killer of children in OECD countries. An estimated 100,000 children have died on the roads in the past 20 years – almost 100 per week on average. Of course, this level of fatalities is not acceptable. Road transport safety, particularly for children, should be a priority for all governments.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The economic downturn in the Netherlands, like the boom that preceded it, has been more marked than in most other European countries. This is partly attributable to greater exposure to international trade, especially with the US, and to greater sensitivity to international stock price movements. But there are also some structural policies – pension fund regulation, housing and wage setting institutions – that have undermined economic efficiency and contributed to the amplitude of the cycle. Furthermore there has been a marked deterioration in public finances, part of which is structural. Longer term growth trends too are unfavourable. In view of these developments, the main challenges are to reform those policies that have reduced efficiency and increased volatility, put public finances on a sustainable path, and, most importantly, increase trend growth by increasing both employment and productivity.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Netherlands
  • Author: Jude Fransman, Henri-Bernard Solignac Lecomte
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Citizens in OECD countries quite unambiguously support more solidarity and justice at the international level; however, despite the adoption of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by their governments in 2000, they remain insufficiently informed and educated about global development challenges. With increased understanding of the issues, citizens could provide greater support for more efficient and coherent development policies as well as for more funding. This requires new efforts by national authorities to report on desirable outcomes and on the results and effectiveness of international development policies towards achieving them.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Security in all its dimensions is fundamental to reducing poverty, protecting human rights and achieving the Millennium DevelopmentGoals (MDGs). Security concerns not only the stability of the state and the security of regimes. It also involves the safety, well-being and freedom from fear of a nation and its people.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Economic performance over the past two decades has been impressive. Underpinned by an increased reliance on competitive forces, which have been stronger than in most other member countries for some time, productivity and output have accelerated significantly. In recent years, helped by timely macroeconomic policy responses, the economy has demonstrated its capacity to adjust to adverse shocks, so that the per capita growth gap against other countries has widened further. The outlook is for this to continue in the next few years, with real GDP expanding by around 4 per cent per annum. Nonetheless, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed to sustain these laudable economic outcomes. By far the top priority is to confront the current and projected federal budget deficits. The fiscal stimulus of the past few years has been helpful in supporting the recovery, but if public dissaving is not reduced, interest rates may be higher, ultimately implying slower growth in economic potential. Increased budget discipline, and indeed significant reform on both the spending and revenue sides of the budget, will be necessary because of the impending demographic pressures on government finances. Corrective fiscal measures will also assist the unwinding of the current account deficit, which is unusually large for this stage of the cycle. As the Federal Reserve begins to move the federal funds rate back to a more neutral level, it will need to be especially attentive to the clarity of its communications with the markets. Further corporate-governance and accounting reforms would help to underpin confidence of domestic and foreign investors, thereby facilitating orderly current-account adjustment. Less reliance on import restrictions and maintaining a leadership role in trade liberalisation would favour structural adjustment at home. Furthermore, despite the generally pro-competitive thrust of antitrust and other regulatory policies, a number of areas deserve attention, notably intellectual property rights, telecommunications and electricity, where further reforms would be welfare enhancing.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Helmut Reisen
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which set clear targets for reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women by 2015.The need for additional development funding, if the MDGs are to be achieved by 2015, is widely recognized. The figure of additional $50 billion per year, roughly the present total of ODA spent by DAC donors, is often quoted (e.g. Zedillo Report). This estimate is of back-of-the-envelope nature, and it seems to be the minimum estimate. If governments exclude the option to abandon the MDGs, they have either to double the existing ODA or to find alternative sources of comparable magnitude–or a balance of the two. The challenge to the international community is mounting by the day.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: OECD countries are working hard to tackle the environmental problems they face, but much more ambitious policies will be needed if their national and international commitments are to be met. Progress has been made in a number of areas since OECD ministers agreed in 2001 on an Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century. For example, air pollution regulations have been tightened, new market-based policies to mitigate climate change at least cost are in place or planned, regulatory frameworks are being strengthened to protect the environment and human health from chemicals, and a number of key international agreements to protect the marine environment and ensure sustainable fishing have recently entered into force, thanks in part to their ratification by some OECD countries. But current policies are insufficient to adequately protect biodiversity resources, or to address climate change. Economic growth no longer leads automatically to an equal increase in pressure on the environment in some key sectors, indicating at least some “decoupling” of environmental pressures from economic growth, but the environmental impact of continuing road transport expansion, energy production, and agricultural practices remains high.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Water is a vital resource for society but needs to be managed carefully to ensure that people have access to affordable and safe drinking water and sanitation, without depleting water resources or damaging ecosystems. The OECD Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century, adopted by OECD ministers in 2001, highlights water management as one of the key issues in maintaining the integrity of ecosystems.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The short-term outlook for Norway is good. Helped by global recovery, growth could proceed at above potential rates for a while, especially as inflation is well below target and there is some cyclical slack in the labour market. Interest rates are low, and fiscal stimulus needs to be withdrawn. Indeed, it will be important to rein back spending over the next few years in order to get back onto the self-imposed track of permissible spending of oil revenues that is consistent with notions of intergenerational fairness. In the longer term, the case for continuing fiscal restraint is even stronger. Reflecting both demographic factors and the maturing of the system, public spending on pensions will rise considerably over the next decades, even if the major reforms now under discussion are quickly implemented. In the future, growth of living standards will have to rely primarily on increases of productivity and employment in the non-oil private business sector. To maintain vigour in the non-oil economy, reforms in both labour and product markets, and in social policies and transfer programmes are called for. There are important interdependencies among policies in these areas and it is unlikely that success will be achieved without advancing with comprehensive reforms. More flexibility is desirable in wage setting, particularly in the public sector. Proposed changes in the fields of education and training will raise skill levels, but value for money needs to be an important criterion when prioritising the programmes. Competition should be strengthened through regulatory reform and a more active policy stance: proposed amendments to strengthen the enforcement framework are an opportunity to make competition policy more central, and should include an independent appellate body. State ownership and subsidies to agriculture should be reduced. Norway's comprehensive social programmes ensure that poverty is virtually non-existent, and a strong work ethic and a high level of social trust led to comparatively little abuse in the past. However, the very rapid rises in numbers on disability pensions and on sick leave suggest that stricter controls are needed. Advancing the reform efforts suggested above will be necessary to harness the more efficient use of resources, thereby raising non-oil potential output and ensuring that Norway maintains a high standard of living in the years to come.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Norway
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Most OECD countries have been actively reforming their public sectors for two decades. Initially the problem seemed to be a relatively straightforward one of improving efficiency, reforming management practices, and divesting public involvement in commercial enterprises. These reforms have indeed had a major impact but they have also given rise to some unexpected problems of their own. Even a seemingly straightforward action such as simplifying a welfare benefit form and cutting the time taken to process it may, for example, encourage more people to apply for the benefit, increasing the workload and making it more difficult to cut waiting time. While more efficient government is certainly desirable, efficiency alone is not a guarantee of better government.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The quality of the teaching workforce is a major consideration in any nation's aspirations for an educational system of high quality. Teachers form the core of the school system and a wide range of research studies has confirmed the importance of teacher quality for student learning. Thus, the development of policies seeking to improve the quality of teachers and ensure that all students receive quality teaching is a central concern for governments.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: To succeed in a rapidly changing world, individuals need to advance their knowledge and skills throughout their lives. Education systems need to lay strong foundations for this, by fostering knowledge and skills and strengthening the capacity and motivation of young adults to continue learning beyond school.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: For a more equitable society, all individuals, independently of their socio-economic background, origin and gender, should ideally have access to equivalent learning opportunities; those with organic disabilities, learning difficulties or social disadvantages should benefit from specific support; and finally, improving outcomes of all learners, and especially those who are less successful, should be a permanent objective of all educational systems.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The concept of lifelong learning as an educational strategy emerged some three decades ago, through the efforts of the OECD, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. It was a response to the anomaly that while individuals learn throughout life, the provision of education opportunities was limited largely to the early phase of life, dominated by formal education. There was a perceived need to provide a “second chance” to those who did not benefit from educational opportunities available during childhood and youth.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Author: Charles Oman, Steven Fries, Willem Buiter
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Corporate governance was long ignored as a matter of potential importance for the development of a nation's economy. It remained virtually invisible as a development policy issue until the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, followed closely by those in Russia and Brazil, drew attention to the problems of “crony capitalism” and their perceived relationship to poor local corporategovernance practices in several emerging-market economies. Yet as the perceived threat to global financial markets raised by those crises recedes and international pressures to strengthen corporate governance in emerging markets weaken, the danger is that local efforts significantly to improve corporate governance in the developing, transition and emerging-market economies will flag.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The metropolitan region of Montreal (Metropolitan Montreal) is Canada's second most populous area after Toronto, and is home to almost 3.5 million people. With its low costs, high quality of life, and wide range of industrial, cultural, educational, and social strengths, Montreal has a vibrant and dynamic economy, but its diversity and complexity can lead to institutional isolation and fragmented decision- making.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Canada