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  • 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
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Today, all OECD Member countries recognise new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to be powerful tools for enhancing citizen engagement in public policy-making. Despite the limited experience to date, some initial lessons for online citizen engagement in policy-making are emerging: Technology is an enabler not the solution. Integration with traditional, “offline” tools for access to information, consultation and public participation in policy-making is needed to make the most of ICTs.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Öresund project which is intended to develop jointly Skåne (Malmö) in Sweden and Zealand (Copenhagen) in Denmark is a major endeavour for the Danish and Swedish governments, given the potential economic growth that can be derived from the integration of one of the most highly populated and productive regions on the Baltic Sea. The significance of the project is reflected not only in the regional policy focus given to Öresund in both countries but also in the EU's support, notably through INTERREG, which considers Öresund a flagship programme. While progress has been achieved to better link the two regional economies, much remains to be done to remove barriers to integration and to define the strategic positioning of the area for the future. Four key policy challenges need to be addressed. First, regarding physical accessibility, the pricing policy for the crossing of the new bridge can be made more efficient and secondary infrastructure optimised to fully exploit the opportunities brought about by the fixed link. A cross-border committee could be created to allow integrated spatial planning. Second, labour mobility should be increased by removing bureaucratic and legislation obstacles through a new package of active labour market policies. Third, networking and co-operation between firms and educational institutions should be enhanced. Fourth, asymmetries of the two fiscal systems will need to be tackled by a new tax agreement. Most important is the governance framework of the region. While there are numerous common Danish/Swedish regional institutions and rightfully the creation of a heavily bureaucratic governing body has been avoided, the potential for public/private partnerships is far from tapped. Furthermore, the system in place does not provide an appropriate framework for the private sector to fully involve all relevant actors. These conditions will need to be fulfilled and forms of “light institutionalisation” of cross-border relations developed in order to trigger a new dynamism in the integration process.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Denmark, Sweden