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Saving in Poor Countries

Sunday, September 28, 2014

In Economics, saving offers something of a puzzle. From some viewpoints, savings are a leakage from the circular flow of income, reducing multiplier effects. And if we all saved - in a determined effort to repay our debts (which sounds like a great idea) – the level of aggregate demand (AD) and economic activity would take a serious hit. This is the famous paradox of thrift.

Yet economies do need saving as a fund for business investment. The Harrod-Domar model is used in development economics to explain an economy's growth rate in terms of the level of saving and productivity of capital (see above).  But many economies have a savings gap.

Yet I’ve been reading that adults in developing countries are half as likely to have an account at a formal financial institution as those in the rich world. Only 18% of people in the Middle East and north Africa do, compared with 89% in high-income countries.  This makes saving even harder. So economists would like the world’s poorest to save more. That would help them to pay for big or unexpected expenses, such as school fees or medical treatment. It could also boost investment and thus accelerate economic growth.

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Why do 17,000 children under five die every day?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The overall rate of infant mortality has been halved in the past two decades.

That's the good news. But Unicef' s latest figures estimate every day 17,000 under-fives die - 6.3 million a year - from largely preventable causes. Most of the deaths happen in the first hours or weeks following birth.

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Growth vrs the environment: deforestation

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The growth vrs the environment debate is great for opening a thoughtful discussion about the net benefits of economic growth. Some participants take what might be described as a Kuznets Curve approach to the issue. That might be simply summarised as things get worse to begin with, but after a while they start to improve (OK, I’m simplifying a bit here). In environmental terms, you might illustrate this with the Peak Stuff idea. For several years now, the UK economy’s total consumption of physical resources has been falling. In the past, growth made our economy more and more damaging to the environment. But future growth might have far less of an impact, and even contribute to significant environmental improvements.

What about tropical forests, which observers in the last decades of the 20th century noted were under severe threat? The Economist newspaper seems to take an optimistic view. Future growth may have far less worrying consequences for tropical forests.

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Ebolanomics: tackling drug development

Sunday, September 07, 2014

This west African health crisis is a tragedy. It could be an issue that stimulates an economics discussion. According to James Surowiecki in The New Yorker there are no real tools to stop the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The lack of treatment is disturbing. But given the way drug development is funded, it’s also predictable.

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Where’s the best place to live?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Will the best place to live - as identified by the Economist newspaper - be found in the country with the highest GDP per capita?

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International Competitiveness - a new ‘Higher or Lower’ game!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Download this engaging teaching resource to test student awareness of the international competitiveness rankings!

You may have already seen Geoff's blog on the newly released International Competitiveness Index.  The World Economic Forum annually release its table of competitiveness using a variety of data measures including economic performance, quality of education and labour efficiency.  The UK has moved up to 9th in the World.

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Doubts about Fair Trade

Sunday, August 31, 2014

According to The Economist there is a long history of efforts to distinguish products that have been made more ethically than others. In the late 18th century, anti-slavery campaigners urged British consumers to boycott sugar from the West Indies in favour of supplies from India. Today’s fair-trade movement took off in the 1960s, mostly in religious organisations that wanted to help the poor, whom they saw as losers in the global trading system. Fair Trade is a really important issue for discussion.

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Developing Country Case Studies e-book

Friday, August 22, 2014

At the end of last term all our year 12's were set the task of writing a short article about a different developing country. They were tasked with covering:

  • Key information- e.g. GDP, HDI, Gini coefficient, indicators of level of poverty/development
  • What factors are limiting growth & development in this country
  • How is the government and other stakeholders trying to promote growth & development in this country
  • How successful have they been so far?

I have collated all these articles together into an e-book which teachers and students studying development economics should find very useful to make use of as part of the course.

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High Charges for Remittances Choke Developing Countries

Monday, August 18, 2014

Western Union and MoneyGram dominate the money transfer industry and the high level of fees that these companies has been heavily criticised in recent years. This is an important article given the huge scale of remittance transfers in the world economy to relatively poor countries such as India, the Philippines and many sub Saharan African nations. 

Click here for an info graphic on remittances produced by the World Bank: http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/E...

Development Economics: The Fortunes of Nations

Here is a really excellent blog on the issue of growth divergence - Simon Taylor contrasts the historical growth records of the United States versus Argentina and then South Korea against Ghana. The accompanying charts reveal starkly the widening gap in GDP per capita between each pair of countries over the very long term.

I will be following Simon Taylor's blog as the new school year comes into focus http://www.simontaylorsblog.com

Tata Group Sets out its Conglomerate Vision

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tata Group, perhaps best known in the UK for its ownership of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Corus, has set out ambitious plans to invest $35bn in capital spending over the next three years as part of its vision for the next 10 years.

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Paths to development - Adding value to natural resources

Monday, July 28, 2014

This is an absolutely outstanding article to use when introducing development economics to a level students. The work of Hausmann and Hidalgo on complexity and economic development is becoming more widely recognised and used in schools. Hausmann's article here in Project Syndicate emphasises the importance of building capabilities within an economy to promote the growth of higher value added industries. Here is the link to the article: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ricar...

Russia increases policy interest rates to 8%

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Russian central bank has raised their main policy interest rate by 0.5% to a new level of 8% in a bid to control inflationary pressures in the Russian economy. 

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2014 HDI Report focuses on Vulnerability

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Each year the Human Development Report published by the United Nations gives a special focus on a particular issue related to development. In 2014 that issue is vulnerability.

To quote from the opening of the report:

"Real progress on human development, then, is not only a matter of enlarging people’s critical choices and their ability to be educated, be healthy, have a reasonable standard of living and feel safe. It is also a matter of how secure these achievements are and whether conditions are sufficient for sustained human development. An account of progress in human development is incomplete without exploring and assessing vulnerability."

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Shifting Terms of Trade for Latin America

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

According to The Economist, the great commodity boom caused by the industrialisation of China and India provided an unprecedented boost to the terms of trade (defined as the ratio of the price of its exports to that of its imports). Yet now the commodities boom may be running out of steam, these countries face a challenge.

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Two sides to the Philippine economy

The Philippines has enjoyed a period of rapid economic growth in recent years and attracted increasing attention as one of the fast-growing economies of South East Asia. Can this growth be sustained? What are the risks, challenges and the constraints facing the country? And how can the benefits of growth contribution to a transformation of economic and human development? This blog provides links to some useful resources:

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Export Complexity - Hidalgo and Hausmann

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Data on export patterns for goods from countries around the world provide a fascinating window on the degrees of complexity that nations have achieved. There is growing interest in the significance of knowledge capital or know-how in lifting productivity, competitiveness and improving trade performance for economies at different stages of development. Below is my selection of countries.

There then follows links to videos from Cesar Hidalgo and Riccardo Hausman on their theory of productive knowledge - and in particular how it is acquired at the level of the individual, the level of organizations, and cities, regions, countries and societies.

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Antidote to Macro Pessimism - Gerard Lyons on Consolations of Economics

Friday, July 04, 2014

In these short interviews with the Financial Times, economist Gerard Lyons highlights some of the key drivers of the global economy and he paints a fairly positive picture of the prospects for developed countries in an ever-changing world economy. In the second interview, Gerard Lyons, 'The Consolations of Economics' author, discusses with John Authers whether the system is safely retuned, and whether it can boldly go into a universe of greater growth opportunities.

Observer review (3 August 2014): http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/03/conso...

Independent review (July 2014): http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/bo...

Evening Standard: http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/gerard-lyons-lon...

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World Cup version of the Happiness Index

Monday, June 30, 2014

Now that England have made their rationally-predicted (but irrationally-disappointing) exit from the World Cup, who else are we to support? As economists, we need a rational basis on which to make that choice, from a rapidly declining set of options. Help is at hand, in the form of a new index supplied by an economist at Yale University. In a paper published last week in the New York Times, Dean Karlan suggests that we should root for the outcome that will produce the largest aggregate increase in happiness.

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Development Economics: Rwanda’s Journey to Prosperity

Saturday, June 28, 2014

With World Bank Group support, millions of Rwandans are on their way to integrating to regional power and transport networks, boosting their agricultural productivity, and delivering results for their families. This is a short info graphic video from the World Bank together with some related links to useful resources on the Rwandan economy.

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The ‘Good Country Index’ adds to the economic progress debate

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I am often writing blogs on the debate over the limitations of GDP as a measure of economic and social progress, most recently with coverage of the Social Progress Index. Here’s another approach, the Good Country Index. It's a deceptively simple concept, yet quite powerful.

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LSE: The Amartya Sen Lecture 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Christine Lagarde is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. She was appointed in July 2011. This blog links to the 2014 Amartya Sen lecture given at the LSE in the summer of 2014 on the topic of empowerment and in particular how women can build capacity and capabilities in countries seeking durable development - see also this blog from Mrs Lagarde in September 2013: http://blog-imfdirect.imf.org/2013/09/23/lagarde-w...

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Development Economics: Building Roads, An Economic Gain in Senegal

This new short video from the World bank looks at the economic benefits that flow from investment in an improved road network in Senegal

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Development Economics: Indonesia Has Developed, But Not Everyone Feels It

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Although Indonesia has experienced significant growth and development, not everyone has benefitted. This short video from the World Bank offers a personal story. Followed by up a July 2014 blog from BBC Global Business on the rise of the wealth elite in Indonesia.

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Inequality: a great induction topic for A2 economics

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The varied nature of Economics means there are so many (sometimes it can seem too many) themes to explore. And priorities change. Sometimes the main issue is production (making more stuff – and how the value of that is measured). Sometimes it’s exchange (looking at how markets work). Yet distribution (often overlooked, especially when economies are booming) seems the hottest topic at the moment. Inequality tops the bestseller lists.

Here are a few tips and links for using the topic as an intro to A2 economics, great for macro, with scope for analysis and evaluation of UK government policy and approaches to development economics.

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Development Data for Cambodia

Monday, June 16, 2014

Here is a selection of development data for Cambodia put into context with a selection of other Asian countries, drawing on published data from the Asian Development Bank. This blog will be added to shortly with summary notes on the economy and links to other useful resources

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2014 World Cup Finalists - Human and Economic Development Indicators

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Drawing on data from the 2013 Human Development Report, here are the 24 countries in the 2014 World Cup ranked according to the Human Development Scores

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RES Essay: Are the advanced economies in for a long period of economic stagnation?

Friday, June 13, 2014

This question gives students a superb opportunity to explore the debate surrounding economic growth in in the leading advanced nations of the global economy. It ties in well with research into the effects of globalisation and the legacy from the financial crisis. I have put together some reading and short video clips that might be relevant to the discussion:

Secular stagnation: (or .... growth pessimism!)

"Secular stagnation refers to the idea that the normal, self-restorative properties of the economy might not be sufficient to allow sustained full employment along with financial stability without extraordinary expansionary policies. The idea was put forth first by Alvin Hansen in the late 1930s." (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/20...

One common interpretation is that - if we are in an age of secular stagnation - and this is an idea that might just be wrong! Maintaining demand often requires extensive periods of ultra loose monetary policy which in turn can create fresh bubbles in property and equity markets.

Is the secular stagnation argument too pessimistic? Can advanced economies rev up the engine of growth once more perhaps by using structural reforms to boost their competitiveness and drive new investment?

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A2 Econ Revision Webinar - Global Economy 2014 (June 2014)

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Here is the recording of Geoff's webinar for A2 Econ students which focused on key aspects of the international & global economy, including a focus towards the end on development economics.

The slides used during the webinar can be downloaded from here.

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Population change and impacts on the economy

Thursday, June 05, 2014

You’ll often hear it said that Britain, or the world, is ‘overpopulated’, but that’s a very hard concept to pin down. Hostility to migrants into the UK is high, yet economists often argue we need more immigrants.

One Labour MP, Stella Creasy, has stirred controversy by saying “talk to Nigel Farage not just about the immigrants who come here and create jobs, but the immigrants who come here and create skills and create opportunities for people and create new ideas for people. There are now more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 16 in Britain. So unless women like me have a lot of children very quickly our ability to sustain our economy (and) to sustain our public services will come under threat”.

So do extra people add to the economy or subtract from it? I’ve put together a few links and ideas.

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RES Competition: Growth, Poverty and The Environment

The first title in the list of six available to RES entrants is a challenging one! 

Promoting growth and fighting poverty should be the priority in the developing world, not reducing greenhouse gases.” Do you agree?

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Unit 4 Macro: Growth, Trade and Development in Sub Saharan Africa

Sunday, June 01, 2014

This blog entry will feature frequently updated revision resources on economic growth trade and development aspects for a range of sub Saharan African countries

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Development Economics: Mozambique eyes commodities boom

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mozambique has discovered large amounts of natural gas - can the extraction of this act as a catalyst for economic growth and development or will Mozambique be added to the long list of countries who have experienced a natural resource curse?

Manuel Chang, Mozambique's minister of finance, says economic growth is only part of the story of a country's development. He tells Javier Blas of the Financial Times how his nation plans to make the most of its vast natural resources.

Manufacturing output in the African continent accounts for less than 2% of global manufacturing production.

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Footballs in Pakistan: An Innovation Story

Friday, May 30, 2014

I am really grateful to Bob Denham from Econ Films who has shared with us this newly launched video from the International Growth Centre. It focuses on the competitive challenges facing Pakistan's football manufacturing sector as it loses market share to countries such as China and Indonesia. Footballs in Pakistan are still made mainly by hand, stitching together hexagons and pentagons - a process that leads to a lot of waste  and higher unit costs and which then affects the profitability of businesses in what is already a low-margin sector.

Could a team of economists find better ways of cutting the patterns for footballs and then align the incentives of workers and owners? This is a fascinating short video which captures many aspects of the Unit 4 development economics course. Enjoy!

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Unit 4 Macro: Guinea and Rio Tinto Agree Investment Deal that might Double GDP

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Guinea has agreed a huge new capital investment framework with a number of transnational partners including Rio Tinto and Chinalco to develop one of the world's biggest iron ore assets. This is a project that may double the country's GDP not least because as well as mining the iron ore, there is a proposal to seek funding to construct a 650km railway and a deep-water port to transport the rocks and minerals. 

It is one of those examples that comes along every once in a while that prompts both students and teachers to re-visit the economics of large scale foreign direct investment projects. Is this nation building of the old style? Or is the proposed investment framework one that could be genuinely transformative for one of the world's poorest countries?

Key points:

  1. Forecast of 45,000 new jobs created across the entire project
  2. State of Guinea will retain 15% of any proceeds from the mine
  3. In exchange, the joint venture with Rio Tinto / Chinalco will enjoy eight years' tax free operations in the country
  4. Production at the Simandou mine is expected to start within five years
  5. It will be Africa's biggest mine
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Unit 4 Macro: China accepts creative destruction

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Here is a short interview in which it is argued that China will increasingly focus on the quality of growth rather than the quantity. A Chinese slowdown may affect countries that have exported to China more than China itself.

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Unit 2 Macro: PPP - What $1 Buys in China

Sunday, May 18, 2014

This short World Bank info-video looks at what $1 buys in China. In China, over 98 million people live on less than 6.3 yuan ($1) per day. 

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Development Economics: The Clean Stove Initiative

Saturday, May 17, 2014

It is a staggering statistics, but around 3 billion people in the world cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal. Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels. And more than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution. This short World Bank video looks at the subsidies available to stove manufacturers under the Clean Stove Initiative.

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Thomas Piketty on Economic Inequality

There has been huge interest in the new book by Thomas Piketty entitled "Capital in the 21st Century". This blog entry will link to some reviews, news articles and short videos on Piketty's ideas and policy prescriptions. In "Capital," French economist Thomas Piketty explores how wealth and the income derived from it magnifies the problems of inequality. At the heart of it is a simple equation R > G - the rate of return on capital is higher than the rate of economic growth. Naturally there is a fierce debate about the data and his methodology!

Recent news articles:

Bad maths in Piketty's capitalism critique? (BBC)

Are we living in the second gilded age? (Linda Yueh, BBC)

Articles on Thomas Piketty from the Guardian

Review of "Capitalism in the Twenty First Century"(The Independent)

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Unit 4 Macro: The New Pacific Alliance

Here are some resources on the newly created Pacific Alliance which - in the short run - has achieved significant tariff  reductions but which in the long run seeks to create a new economic community / single market in the region.

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Unit 4 Macro: Revision Extracts and Questions on South Korea

Friday, May 16, 2014

Here is a short revision resource on the South Korean economy that I have used in a revision lesson with my A2 macro students.

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Chinese FDI in Africa

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Here is a quick note about a news item which provides some excellent evidence of inward FDI in Africa, Chinese investment in access to commodities, and the costs and benefits for an LEDC of overseas investment. 

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When will China ‘overtake’ America?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

At some point the United States ‘overtook’ Britain as a global power and many people fret (or celebrate) that one day China will ‘overtake’ the US. I’ve used inverted commas on purpose. What does ‘overtake’ mean? If the conversation is between economists, they are probably talking about the crucial concept of GDP.

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Background on Mexican Economy and Two Exam Questions

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Here is a two page revision document on aspects of the Mexican economy together with with A2 macro exam questions based on the material. You can download the resource from our slideshare account

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F585: Africa Progress Report 2014

Thursday, May 08, 2014

There seems to be a huge amount of relevant material in here for students preparing for their A2 F585 paper - extract 5 of the pre-release case study focuses on economic growth and development in Sub Saharan Africa. Click this link: http://africaprogresspanel.org/publications/policy...

The impact of a multinational company in Costa Rica over the last decade

I’ve been teaching a while, so I was very interested to see an Economist article return to a topic I remembered from way back in 2000, when the multinational company Intel had recently embarked on a significant investment in Costa Rica. What would happen to the relatively poor Central American economy when the giant arrived?

Fast forward to 2014 and Intel have announced that they are leaving. Cue some similar questions: what effects have been felt? And what impact will Intel’s departure have?

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Unit 4 Macro: Has India missed the manufacturing boat?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

This is a timely and important short video report on the future for Indian manufacturing industry.

Onerous regulations, bureaucracy and poor infrastructure have made it difficult for large manufacturers to prosper in low cost mass manufacturing in India. And just as the South Asian nation starts to benefit from the so-called demographic dividend, manufacturers are shifting towards less labour intensive manufacturing techniques. The Financial Times visits JCB and Bharat Forge in the manufacturing hub of Pune to find out more

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UK Income and Wealth Inequality - A New Film

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Income and wealth inequality in the UK are higher than most people think they are and higher than they think they should be. These are among the messages of a new online infographics film:

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China about to overtake USA as world’s largest economy

New data suggests that China will soon overtake the United States with the largest GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity. This short Financial Times video from Chris Giles looks at the new data which are being driven by fresh estimates of what money can buy - i.e. the volume of goods and services that are produced in different countries and what one dollar can buy in one country compared to another. The data finds that poorer countries are cheaper than economists thought they were and richer countries are more expensive.

China barely breaks into the top one hundred of the countries of the world in terms of GDP per capita (PPP) - it is a large country but not rich!

The 2011 gross domestic product (GDP) of the European Union, the United States and China together accounted for half of the world GDP in 2011. In 2011, the GDP of the 28-nations EU represented 18.6 percent of the world's GDP, expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPP). It was followed by the United States with a share of 17.1 percent and China with 14.9 percent.

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International export competitiveness - surprising shifts in the global pattern

Boston Consulting Group have produced a fascinating new report which investigates the competitiveness of the world's top 25 goods exporting nations. Their press release highlights significant changes in the world order over the last decade. The newly-minted BCG Global Manufacturing Cost-Competitiveness Index incorporates four factors: energy costs, productivity, wages and exchange rates. That analysis shows that Brazil is now one of the highest-cost countries, and the UK is the cheapest location in western Europe. Mexico now has lower manufacturing costs than China, while costs in much of eastern Europe are basically at parity with the U.S.

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