For several decades, markets and market incentives were the main drivers of economic trends and policies. No longer. We have entered an age of political economy, in which the actions of governments and the possibility of drastic policy shifts have become the main determinants of economic performance.

Industrial policy has always been a controversial dimension of growth and development strategies in emerging economies. Now, the introduction of the CHIPS and Science Act, [a US federal statute enacted by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on August 9, 2022. The act provides roughly USD280 billion in new funding to boost domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States], and the (misnamed) Inflation Reduction Act in the United States has reignited a similar debate in advanced economies. Unfortunately, it’s a debate that often generates more heat than light.

Trade and technology development policies almost always have distributional consequences. There may be a few exceptions for which the implementation of a policy produces either gains or no loss for nearly everyone, what economists would call a Pareto improvement. But these instances are relatively rare. You could argue that for early-stage developing countries, the export-driven growth model that draws surplus labor into the modernizing manufacturing and urban sectors comes close to meeting this standard. But even there, the gains are not spread evenly, and income inequality normally increases.

Last November was an extraordinary month. Global leaders gathered for four major meetings: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Cambodia, the G20 summit in Indonesia, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Thailand, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt. What was striking wasn’t the timing of the meetings, but rather the evidence they produced that the tide might be turning away from confrontation toward renewed cooperation in the international arena.

The post-pandemic economy’s high inflationary pressures are being powered in part by secular trends and forces, many of which are operating on the supply side. While there are also transitory factors – such as supply-chain disruptions and bottlenecks, and China’s zero-COVID policy – these presumably will abate at some point. But the secular trends are likely to lead to a new equilibrium in many economies and global financial markets.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations are playing an increasingly prominent role in business. ESG is now central to how firms in a wide range of sectors, including finance and asset management, define their purpose, mission, and strategy, and it is increasingly shaping hiring practices and regulatory activity. But whether the apparent embrace of ESG will deliver real progress remains to be seen.

The promise of ESG stems from an important proposition. The key challenges we face today – from achieving reasonable levels of equity and equality of opportunity to ensuring environmental sustainability – cannot be overcome by any single actor, not even the government. On the contrary, effective solutions will require all hands on deck, including business, government, finance, education, the courts, and the nonprofit sphere.

Central banks’ efforts to contain high and rising inflation are fueling growth headwinds and threatening to tip the global economy into recession. But the proximate cause of today’s inflationary pressures is a large, broad-based, and persistent imbalance between supply and demand. Higher interest rates will dampen demand, but supply-side measures must also play a large role in inflation-taming strategies.

Over the past year or so, the rollback of pandemic-containment policies has spurred a simultaneous surge in demand and contraction in supply. While this was to be expected, supply has proved surprisingly inelastic. In labor markets, for example, shortages have become the norm, leading to canceled flights, disrupted supply chains, restaurant closures, and challenges to health-care delivery.

Fast-growing companies and startups were once the preserve of Silicon Valley and Seattle. No longer. Today, the United States boasts several innovation hotspots, including Austin, Miami, New York City, and Washington, DC. In recent years, similar hubs have also emerged in Europe, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Helsinki, London, Paris, and Stockholm. But this phenomenon is no longer limited to the advanced economies of the West. In fact, startup culture has gone global.

In 1979, W. Arthur Lewis received the Nobel Prize in economics for his analysis of growth dynamics in developing countries. Deservedly so: His conceptual framework has proved invaluable in understanding and guiding structural change across a range of emerging economies.

The basic idea that Lewis emphasized is that developing countries initially grow by expanding their export sectors, which absorb the surplus labor in traditional sectors like agriculture. As incomes and purchasing power rise, domestic sectors expand along with the tradable sectors. Productivity and incomes in the largely urban, labor-intensive manufacturing sectors tend to be 3-4 times higher than in the traditional sectors, so average incomes rise as more people go to work in the expanding export sector. But, as Lewis noted, this also means that wage growth in the export sector will remain depressed as long as there is surplus labor elsewhere.

Over the past five years, India has experienced an unusually rapid expansion of digital connectivity and access to services. This has had a positive impact on the inclusiveness of economic growth; on efficiency and productivity in retail, supply chains, and finance; and on entrepreneurial activity.

India’s engagement with digital technology dates to the late 1980s. Major investments in computer science and education were made under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s administration (1984-89). And with the expansion of internet access in the 1990s, India became home to many major outsourcing companies in IT administration, business processes, and customer service. But because the infrastructure needed for widespread mobile-internet access remained deficient, penetration lagged and data costs for mobile users ended up being among the highest in the world.

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