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  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Health is higher on the international agenda than ever before and improving the health of poor people is a central issue in development. Poor people suffer worse health and die younger. They have higher than average child and maternal mortality, higher levels of disease, and more limited access to healthcare and social protection. But health is also a crucially important economic asset, particularly for poor people. Their livelihoods depend on it. When poor people become ill or injured, their entire household can become trapped in a downward spiral of lost income and high healthcare costs.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: To raise Austria's growth potential, significant changes in the institutional set-up will be necessary in order to achieve sound public finances, higher labour force participation - in particular among older workers - and to open up the sheltered sectors of the economy to healthy competition. Although the government's emphasis on structural spending reductions to achieve eventual budget balance while also creating room for tax cuts is appropriate, earlier fiscal easing means that under current plans budget balance will be restored only after 2007. Such a deficit path is not appropriate given Austria's high debt-to-GDP ratio. Stronger spending restraint will be necessary in order to create room for the major tax reform that the authorities are committed to. Public expenditure reform is focused on reducing public sector employment, but the cost savings are eroded by the generous early retirement programmes used to achieve these employment reductions. Comprehensive public sector reform has to address the complicated -federal fiscal relationships and make sure that tasks are allocated to the most appropriate private or public agent. More cost-benefit analysis and output performance budgeting would help to improve the efficiency with which public resources are used. The pension reform undertaken by the government marks considerable progress in moving to sustainable old-age income replacement through measures designed to increase further the labour force participation rate of older workers and women and lengthen working lives considerably. Further necessary action includes measures to improve the employability of older workers, in particular the elimination of excessive seniority wage components, and a more stringent revision of the remaining age-specific employment protection regulation. The large differences in economic performance between manufacturing, which is fully exposed to international competition, and services points to considerable scope for increasing competition by reducing entry barriers and facilitating the operations of the newly established competition authority. Proceeding along these lines will help Austria to realise the positive potential associated with Eastern enlargement while at the same time becoming more resilient to adverse supply side shocks.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Austria
  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: In many respects, France fares well among OECD countries in terms of indicators of the health status of its population and resources allocated to its health care system. The French population (and particularly French women) enjoys a relatively high life expectancy compared with the average across OECD countries. The French have a free choice of doctor, and can approach relatively easily both generalists and specialists. Also, the French health system has not generally experienced the problems of long waiting lists for certain treatments, as has been the case in several other OECD countries. The health care system in France is predominantly funded through public sources, but with services delivered by both the public and private sector. Universal access is provided to doctors and hospital services, with some co-payments for patients which vary depending on the type of services. Since the introduction of the Universal Health Coverage Law (Loi de la Couverture médicale universelle or CMU) in 2000, people with low income who are not covered by complementary insurance have access to doctors and hospitals free of charge. Overall, public satisfaction with the health care system in France has traditionally been much higher than in most other countries. However, health spending in France is relatively high in comparison with the OECD average.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: France
  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The prospects for lower growth in the medium-long term will require far-reaching fiscal and structural adjustment. The authorities have made a start in reducing public expenditure growth in line with these more subdued prospects but more restraint will be necessary to meet their medium-term objectives. Adjustments to the general public pension scheme, preferably by reducing the high replacement rates, will be needed to make the scheme sustainable in the long term. The authorities have begun to tackle the early retirement problem, which will help to reduce the scale of the required adjustments to make the general public pension scheme sustainable, but more needs to be done. The reforms to the disability pension, which is one of the major routes to premature withdrawal from the labour force, should be complemented by reducing the earlyretirement pension on an actuarial basis in relation to a pension taken at the official retirement age and by reducing the ease with which imputed contributions can be obtained. Lower growth will also diminish the buffering role of cross- border employment on the national labour market, increasing the risk that adverse shocks increase structural unemployment. To counter this risk, the authorities should reduce the high replacement rates for unemployment and related benefits and ease employment protection regulation.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Luxembourg
  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • 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: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Since the late 1990s, Finland has been a leader in exploiting information and communication technology (ICT) to renew its economy and to reform its public administration. Its reputation for successfully providing proactive electronic government services and information has brought officials from around the world to learn from its experience.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: E-government is more about government than about "e". As a tool to achieve better government, e-government offers potential solutions to leaders across the whole of government: IT managers, programme managers, agency heads, government-wide e-government planners and co-ordinators, and politicians all have a role to play. Yet the roles of these leaders differ, and even the role of an individual leader changes as e-government develops in a given country. At the beginning there may be an immediate need to foster innovation and diffusion of technology, whereas organisational change becomes more important once IT applications are in place. Certain key e-government principles are common to all leaders, though their relative importance will differ. While the elements in this policy brief may be applicable to leaders at various levels, they are especially relevant to leaders with broad responsibilities and a strategic vision of e-government.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Foreign investment has played an important role in China's economic development for almost a quarter of a century and is vital for that development to continue. But while China has been highly successful in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) so far, and has made significant progress in improving its FDI policy framework, it has not fully exploited its potential to attract investment from OECD countries. To make the most of the potential benefits of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to increase FDI inflows while enhancing their contribution to domestic development China will need to persevere with efforts to bring its laws and regulations into harmony with internationally recognised standards and to ensure they are fully and consistently implemented at local level.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China
  • 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