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  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Canada's economy has done comparatively well over the past two years, demonstrating a noticeably improved resilience to unfavourable shocks. Over the medium term the economy is poised to achieve growth rates that compare favourably with past performance, but that will not be enough to eliminate the per capita income gap with the United States. The fundamental challenge is to make Canada an even more attractive place to live, work and invest. While past reforms have begun to pay off, there is still unfinished business. To boost the employment rate further the government should reduce disincentive effects arising from the tax and benefit systems by, for example, making greater use of in-work benefits and reintroducing experience rating of Employment Insurance users. Faster productivity gains are more likely to be achieved in an economic environment conducive to innovation. A key to greater dynamism is strengthening competition by eliminating remaining foreign ownership limits and barriers to internal and external trade and continuing electricity deregulation. Investing in skills should also remain a priority, with a particular emphasis on adult education. The nation has benefited by importing human capital from abroad through immigration but needs to intensify its efforts to remove the obstacles that prevent immigrants from having their skills fully utilised in the labour market. Having introduced a sound fiscal framework and reformed its public pension system Canada is in a better position than most other countries in facing ageing-related fiscal challenges, but the trend rise in health-care costs remains a risk. With the recent budget the government chose to address the short-term needs of the existing system. But, ultimately, ways to control the rise in budgetary costs - whether through incentives to raise efficiency or through cost sharing - will need to be explored, otherwise the resources needed to finance the future burden should be set aside in advance, for example by setting a bolder debt reduction target. Finally, environmental sustainability will be enhanced with least cost to the economy if the ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction is achieved through market-oriented instruments rather than command and control measures or voluntary agreements.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The OECD recognises the valuable contribution that civil society can make to the public policy-making process, and attaches great importance to the Organisation's own consultation and dialogue with civil society organisations (CSOs). This continuing dialogue builds trust in public institutions and promotes public understanding of the benefits and challenges of global economic and social change.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Trade and investment, coupled with transfers of knowledge and technology and an appropriate institutional framework, have been major engines of global economic growth in developed and developing countries over the past 50 years. From the mid-1980s, the pace of global economic integration and growth accelerated significantly. Sustaining global economic growth and achieving a better sharing of its benefits will further the interests of all countries, developing and developed alike. Recognising this, the international community has committed itself to specific Millennium Development Goals and to ways of achieving them.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The building sector is economically important in OECD countries, accounting for a significant proportion of industrial activities and jobs. In fact, the construction industry - buildings and infrastructure such as roads and electricity networks - accounts for around 5%-15% of their gross domestic product (GDP), and 45%-55% of their gross capital formation. The industry also provides 5%-10% of total employment in OECD countries. The building sector also has a great impact on the environment. Building activities such as design, construction, use, refurbishment and demolition all affect the environment, either directly or indirectly. p>
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The global annual welfare gains from further multilateral trade liberalisation, involving both tariff reduction and trade facilitation, would be substantial. Recent OECD estimates suggest that they would range, depending on the precise scenario, between US$117 billion and US$173 billion. For individual economies, depending on the region to which they belong, the gains would amount to annual real increases in gross domestic product (GDP) of between 0.2% and 1.8%, the OECD estimates show. These figures are sufficiently impressive to inspire international action. But would the gains be automatic? Would significantly improved market access be enough to stimulate diversification and trade-led growth? And will increased trade necessarily contribute to reducing poverty and achieving the other Millennium Development Goals identified by the international community?
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Services, from health and education to telecommunications and transport, are becoming the single largest sector in many economies. Not only do they provide the bulk of employment and income in many countries, but in areas such as the financial or telecommunications sectors, services provide vital input for the production of other goods and services. So the efficiency of the services sector is crucial to the efficiency of the overall economy.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The development focus of the current multilateral trade negotiations launched in Doha in late 2001 has highlighted the need for trade liberalisation in areas of export interest for developing countries. When it comes to services, a key issue for these countries is the temporary movement of people across borders to supply services, for example in areas such as nursing or information technology.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Regional trade agreements (RTAs) are an integral part of international trade, accounting for almost half of world trade and expected to grow further in the next few years. These agreements operate alongside global multilateral agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO), and have both positive and negative effects. They can be attractive, for example, because it may be easier for a small group of neighbouring countries with similar concerns and cultures to agree on market opening in a particular area than to reach agreement in a wider forum such as the WTO. They can also offer new approaches to rule-making and so act as stepping stones on the way to a multilateral agreement.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: International trade has grown rapidly in recent years, and with it the relative importance of border procedures such as Customs requirements, adding to the cost for governments and business, and ultimately for the customer. Indeed, surveys suggest that border-related costs such as the expense of supplying the required Customs documents or the surcharges arising from procedural delays when importing goods could total as much as 15% of the value of the goods being traded in some cases.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The opening of markets has boosted trade and economic growth worldwide in the past few decades. Yet tariffs – taxes imposed by importing countries on foreign goods – still remain a key obstacle to market access. The potential benefits of further reducing this obstacle are significant. OECD estimates indicate that scrapping all tariffs on merchandise trade and reducing trade costs by 1% of the value of trade worldwide would boost global welfare by more than USD 170 billion dollars a year. These gains would contribute a boost to regions around the world, adding the equivalent of up to 2% to the present annual gross domestic product (GDP) in some areas. No wonder that both developed and developing countries consider substantial tariff reductions as a central goal of the current multilateral trade talks in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Entering its fifth year of existence, the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has met major headwinds. At the advent of the single currency the euro area experienced solid economic growth, with unemployment falling and public finances rapidly improving. However, a number of structural problems were exposed with the cyclical downturn since 2001, from which the area is recovering only hesitantly. The challenges facing policy makers at present are both of a short-run and medium-run nature. Policy makers are currently grappling with sluggish demand. Responding to this challenge, monetary policy has been eased and fiscal policy reacted through the automatic stabilisers. However, the room for manoeuvre was reduced by lingering inflationary pressures and earlier insufficient fiscal adjustment in several member states. Meanwhile the euro exchange rate has appreciated significantly. Over the medium term, the Community has set ambitious targets and a vast programme for enhancing the performance of labour, product and financial markets. This programme needs to be pursued with vigour, thereby raising the odds of large gains in trend growth and jobs while making it easier to achieve sound fiscal positions.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: After several years of rapid expansion, the French economy has entered into a period of below potential growth, with a negative output gap opening up. Monetary conditions have been relaxed, while fiscal policy has eased excessively, provoking the European Commission to initiate an excessive deficit procedure. As uncertainty dissipates towards the middle of this year, the economy should pick up speed, reaching a growth rhythm of around 2 per cent in 2004. Nevertheless, over the medium term, in the absence of substantial reforms the ageing of the population risks threatening economic and fiscal equilibrium. Current pension and healthcare reform initiatives and plans to redress spending over the medium term go in the right direction. However, in order to ensure medium and long-term fiscal sustainability, additional policies to slow the expansion of health and pension spending are required, while efforts to raise employment rates and potential output are needed to improve the economy's ability to finance future ageing-related expenditure. Here, programmes that offer the possibility of on-the-job training should be expanded so as to reactivate young and lowskilled workers, while reforms to early-retirement schemes and the pension system need to be continued so as to restore work incentives for older workers. Ongoing tax and labour market reforms and policies to facilitate the development of high-tech and fast growing enterprises, which should help promote investment and higher productivity growth, also need to be pursued. The opening of the capital of stateowned enterprises and their eventual privatisation, and planned improvements to governance structures should help promote growth, but revenues from sell-offs ought to be used to reduce debt. Finally, in order to better manage the totality of public expenditures, the authorities need to implement reforms that can be used to ensure that all spending organisms contribute to controlling spending. Here, it will be necessary to implement mechanisms that would improve the effectiveness of measures to control healthcare spending. Moreover, decision-makers need to be more directly confronted with the long-term consequences of their actions. Initiatives such as decentralisation and the new budget framework law should help in this regard. Pursuit of reforms along all of these lines should permit society to meet the fiscal challenge posed by population ageing, while retaining high levels of service.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe, France
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The traditional dynamism and flexibility of the Italian economy has faltered in recent years, in part because of the unfavourable developments in the international economy. Furthermore, structural reforms have not yet gone far enough to turn the tide. Despite supportive fiscal policies and monetary conditions, growth is sluggish, confidence is at a low ebb, inflation is above the euro-area average, and there are perceptions of a pervasive loss of competitiveness. As regards fiscal policy, room for manoeuvre has now been greatly reduced by tax cuts – desirable in themselves – and significant additional corrective measures will be required for some years to come, if medium-term targets are to be achieved and long-term fiscal sustainability is to be assured. Such corrective measures should be of a structural and permanent nature, with prime candidates being savings in public pensions and health care, and increased public sector efficiency. The pension system is very expensive, in large part because it still encourages early retirement, thus resulting in inefficient public spending and low employment rates. These perverse features need to be removed. Public health spending is not efficiently administered: recent agreements on standards and financing with regions are a step forward, and a more incisive control of costs could derive from the quarterly monitoring of spending that has already been implemented. In public administration, the retirement of large numbers of public employees creates opportunities for a more effective and less costly redeployment of human resources. Overall economic performance would be improved by policies that further strengthen competition in product markets, for example by not eroding the powers and independence of the sectoral regulators. Privatisations should be vigorously resumed and effective financial market monitoring of firms ensured. Speedier bankruptcy procedures should be introduced that give priority to efficient reallocation of resources. Together with less rigid employment protection legislation, this might encourage more small firms to expand to levels that would permit more investment in both human and R capital. Recent employment developments have been positive, and further improvements could be achieved by encouraging the social partners to allow wages of workers of all ages to more closely reflect their productivity and local conditions. Planned improvements in the social safety net and the functioning of employment services should also boost job creation by making employees willing to accept more flexible employment conditions. In the longer term, increasing the levels of output and living standards will also depend on raising the skills and qualifications of Italy's labour force. Proposed educational reforms could improve them both and thereby help to realise Italy's full economic potential.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Italy
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: One of the most common complaints raised by businesses and citizens in OECD countries is the amount and complexity of government formalities and paperwork. Enterprises and citizens spend much time and devote significant resources to activities such as filling out forms, applying for permits and licences, reporting business information, notifying changes etc. In many cases, practices have become extremely complex, or irrelevant and cumbersome, generating unnecessary regulatory burdens – so-called “red tape”. The costs imposed on the economy as a whole are significant. When excessive in number and complexity, administrative regulations can impede innovation, create unnecessary barriers to trade, investment and economic efficiency, and even threaten the legitimacy of regulation and the rule of law.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are one of the world's foremost corporate responsibility instruments and are becoming an important international benchmark for corporate responsibility. They contain voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct in such areas as human rights, disclosure of information, anti-corruption, taxation, labour relations, environment, and consumer protection. They aim to promote the positive contributions multinational enterprises can make to economic, environmental and social progress.
  • Topic: Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, International Trade and Finance
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: OECD countries have recently agreed to a positive reform agenda for agricultural policies. Central to this agenda is the need to set out clearly the objectives of agricultural policies, and to monitor the performance of alternative policies in attaining them. In most cases, the best way to achieve an objective is to target it directly. Thus, where agriculture is deemed to provide public services, such as a pleasing countryside or environmental benefits, any required support for those services could be provided directly, rather than through policies that stimulate output. Conversely, environmental degradation could be taxed or regulated at source. Where agricultural households have low incomes, there may be a case for policies that concentrate benefits among poorer households, as opposed to blanket support measures that pay more to larger (and typically wealthier) farmers and to landowners. Reform along these lines would improve the cost-effectiveness of government programmes, and would greatly reduce disruptions to international markets. At the same time, not everyone will gain from reform, at least in the short term. There may therefore be a need for temporary adjustment assistance for farm households that are negatively affected. The broader opportunities to improve economic well-being call for policies that respond explicitly to a more diverse range of societal interests.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, International Trade and Finance
  • Publication Date: 05-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: An important obstacle to achieving environmental goals in many countries has been the failure to adequately address the associated financial issues: the costs of achieving goals; how those costs could be minimised; and the challenge of matching costs with available resources. The need for a fresh approach has become evident as central European countries come to terms with mobilising substantial financial resources to comply with challenging EU environmental requirements, and as the countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) struggle to maintain even the low levels of services currently delivered by environmentally-related infrastructure.
  • Topic: Economics, Environment, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Central Asia, Eastern Europe
  • Publication Date: 04-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The urban water sector presents difficult economic and political choices for governments. The provision of water and sanitation services has undoubtedly reduced disease and yielded other health benefits. Free or cheap access to water has also spurred a variety of other uses from maintaining lawns to washing cars. At the same time, this sector is plagued by a long history of under-pricing, and opposition to full cost pricing for ethical and social reasons. These factors have contributed to the unwillingness of many governments to acknowledge water as a finite natural resource and an economic good – a commodity that needs a market price reflecting the cost of provision and its true value to society.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Government, Industrial Policy
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: There is widespread concern that poor water management will be one of the major factors limiting sustainable development during the next few decades. Water shortages are common in many regions, and are exacerbated by the pollution or degradation of many water bodies. There are conflicting demands for available water resources, both between human, economic, and ecosystem needs and between regions sharing a single water basin, in some cases leading to geopolitical security threats. World population roughly doubled over the last 50 years, while water consumption worldwide quadrupled. With urban populations growing faster than rural populations, the financial pressures on urban water utilities are intensifying.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Since the advent of computers, and more recently the Internet, pressure on governments to perform better has increased, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) have provided them with the capacity to do so via e-government. E-government is here defined as “the use of ICTs, and particularly the Internet, as a tool to achieve better government”. The impact of e-government at the broadest level is simply better government – e-government is more about government than about “e”. It enables better policy outcomes, higher quality services and greater engagement with citizens. Governments and public administrations will, and should, continue to be judged against these established criteria for success.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Science and Technology