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Still booming

The Internet is much more than a multi-billion dollar industry. The world’s economy now depends on this global “cloud”, which was once little more than a means of connecting different computers over a phone network. Today, the digital age has vast new potential to serve as a force of progress in the global economy, but better, smarter public policies will be needed for that potential to become reality.

A calm look at social unrest

In a globalised world, social unrest occurring far away can have transnational ramifications, with effects nearer to home. This has been evident in recent years with movements such as Occupy and Indignados, and the Arab Spring. Unrest could also be the consequence of a terrorist attack, but even the threat of one can lead to widespread panic. The upshot can be disorder and economic turmoil.

Compact cities

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population more than 5.5 billion people will live in urban areas. This population boom, combined with threats of global warming, high energy prices and tight government budgets make a convincing argument for better city planning. Governments faced with growing populations and dwindling natural resources have two choices: they can let urban sprawl continue to eat up useful land or they can plan “compact cities” that will be better for the economy and the environment. 

Turkey’s economy

The OECD is preparing its forthcoming Economic Survey of Turkey. What issues will be examined? We asked the OECD Economics Department to outline them. Turkey has achieved strong growth in terms of GDP and employment and its public finances are in comparatively good shape. As you prepare your forthcoming Economic Survey of Turkey, what factors would you say contributed to these successes? 

Behind closed doors

“Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it,” said Benjamin Franklin. Yet, from Machiavelli through Richelieu to Kissinger, people in power have always relied on good advice from people they trust. But where should the line be drawn (rather than blurred) between influence and intrigue, cost and benefit? 

Support where it works

Inventors, entrepreneurs and start-ups offer a glimmer of hope in a time of low growth and austerity, with governments and economists alike shifting their attention towards innovation as a way out of a protracted crisis. Government-supported policies and programmes to support business innovation have been around for decades, but how successful are they and what lessons can be drawn for these more austere times? 

Energy from the sun

Thomas Edison’s assertion that “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” is particularly pertinent to the solar energy sector. This remarkable technology could hold answers to so many of the world’s energy challenges, but only at the cost of hard effort and investment. Solar Energy Perspectives, the first in-depth study dedicated to solar technology from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a sister organisation of the OECD, gives a comprehensive analysis of solar energy’s potential as well as the policies required to increase its capacity in the coming decades. 

Factory approved

Starting a factory? While “quick and dirty” may be the easiest business model to follow, the OECD is encouraging start-ups to start smart, with sustainability in mind. The OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit is a seven-step checklist to help businesses integrate good environmental practice, and stay on the side of investors, regulators, customers and local communities.

How's Life?

Have you ever had the feeling that economists and governments speak about wealth and growth in a way that doesn’t always chime with your own everyday experience?

Tax loopholes

When the OECD joined the G20 crackdown on tax havens during the economic crisis in 2009, its longstanding work helped to curb this harmful tax practice and implement a global standard of bank transparency. Now the organisation is focusing on another time-honoured malpractice: that of slipping taxable income through fiscal loopholes. Some call this creative accounting, the OECD calls it aggressive tax planning, and because it is hurting government revenue, it is hurting entire economies as well.

Coming out of the water closet

In the last edition of the OECD Observer we showed how investing in a gas-based kitchen can save lives. The simple water closet can also be a means to good health and dignity, and a source of economic wellbeing, says a new OECD report, Benefits of Investing in Water and Sanitation.

Learning to care

In 1950, less than 1% of the global population was over 80. By 2050, the share of those aged 80 and over is expected to reach nearly 10% across OECD countries. The trouble is, while people are living longer, they are not always able to look after themselves. Relying on family help can be difficult, not just financially, but also because, as people live longer, their children may also be ageing and facing challenges of their own. That is why public authorities are starting to focus on the issue of long-term care and the provision of services for elderly people with reduced functional capacities.

Trade for aid

As efforts to restart the stalled Doha Development Round negotiations intensify, the policy focus on world trade, and, specifically, its relation to development aid and growth in poorer countries, has become more acute. Trade is a powerful engine for economic growth, as the OECD’s founders argued 50 years ago, and, as such, can contribute to reducing poverty. However, efforts to improve trade in developing countries are often hampered by domestic constraints, particularly a lack of adequate economic infrastructures, as well as institutional and organisational obstacles.

Green house?

How much more would you be willing to pay for renewable energy? Are environmental concerns a factor in how much you use your car? And are you really thinking about the environment when you buy organic food? All these questions, and more, are at the heart of the 2008 survey which forms the basis of Greening Household Behaviour. A part of the OECD’s Green Growth Strategy, this survey covered 10,000 households across ten OECD countries to determine how our day-to-day relationship with the environment may affect reforms, and is due for another round in 2011.

OECD Yearbook 2011

Read the OECD Yearbook 2011, inaugural edition for the 50th anniversary of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. See the articles below or click here for the Issuu pdf version, which features key trends since the 1960s for OECD and partner countries; from page 103.

Biofuels: A second chance

As biofuel production grew fourfold from 2000 to 2008, criticism of the industry seemed to increase nearly as dramatically. Production of these transport fuels, which are based on food crops such as grains, sugar cane and vegetable oils, competes with food crops and drives up food prices, experts argue. Also, from land-clearance needed for cultivation, production and use, these biofuels may actually increase, rather than reduce, greenhouse gas emissions.

Urban energy

Despite the mitigated outcome of the recent Copenhagen climate change summit, efforts to develop renewable energy still make progress. Practical solutions to improve the development and implementation of renewable energies and boost their efficiency are constantly being sought. Attention is starting to focus on cities.

Greener aid

Climate change is very much on the development agenda, but according to this guide, Integrating Climate Change Adaptation into Development Co-operation: Policy Guidance, while developing countries account for over half of total carbon emissions, they are also the most vulnerable to climate change.

Oil conundrum

"This makes you my competitor", said oil pioneer Daniel Plainview on learning that his son wanted to quit the wells in California to drill his own in Mexico, in the 2007 movie, There will be Blood. And to be sure, Mexico did become a competitor, producing oil in the early 1900s and becoming the second largest producer in the Americas after the US by the 1990s.

Sustainable reading

Humanity has few stranger monuments than the moai of Easter Island. Weighing up to 270 tonnes, these huge figures, like the pyramids of ancient Egypt, are all that’s left of what must once have been a creative and complex society–but a society that also used its resources unsustainably, effectively destroying the ecosystem base of its island home.

Problems of scale

Fisheries may be an ancient economic activity, but nowadays they are at the forefront of globalisation. First, there is the trade itself: a blue hake caught off the coast of New Zealand by a Japanese vessel may be processed in China before being flown to a market in London or Paris.

Uncertain climate

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in early December 2007 may have raised new hopes of progress, but as everyone knows, dealing with climate change will require more than just political goodwill. Providing for abundant, affordable, clean energy will require considerable investment in new power generation–more than US$11 trillion to 2030, based on an estimate in the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2006.

Fuelling emissions

Transport is the main cause of carbon dioxide emissions, ahead of power generation or industry. While aviation accounts for 14% of transport-based CO2 emissions in the EU, roads have a larger effect. In OECD countries, road transport accounts for over 80% of all transport-related energy consumption, for most of the accidents and the majority of air pollutant emissions, noise and habitat degradation.

Day care for mothers

Which came first, working mothers or day care centres? More mothers in the workforce generally spur the development of childcare facilities. In this study of four of the wealthier OECD countries–Canada, Finland, Sweden and the UK–where three out of four women between the ages of 25 and 54 hold down jobs, the Swedish experience suggests that without publicly-assisted childcare, the upper limit for female employment would be around 60%.

Agua, por favor!

In Mexico, 80% of the population lives in relatively dry and hot areas and subterranean resources are being slowly exhausted. Access to water is increasingly becoming an issue in some of the most active and industrialised parts of the country. Yet, says the OECD’s 2004 review of regulatory reform in Mexico, rapid demographic growth and industrial development have increased the overall demand for water.

Current spending

Energy planning is not easy, and when governments shop around for energy sources, they must balance costs and benefits of available options.

Clear, but not absolute

Sweden’s good reputation for a clean environment may be deserved, but there are murky spots. True, it gained high marks in the recent OECD Environmental Performance Review of Sweden. It was one of the first OECD countries to cut its use of environmentally harmful chemicals, and is one of the few OECD countries on track to meet their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuelling the future

Predicting the future is all very well, but how much will it cost to keep the world’s engines running? This publication is the first-ever attempt to comprehensively examine future investment needs, worldwide, in all parts of the energy-supply chain.

Japanese energy

The archipelago that makes up Japan is two-thirds mountains, with few indigenous energy resources. As the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, with relatively high energy prices, the most important energy challenge for Japan is security of supply.

Power to burn

The efficiency of power grids may be in the spotlight now, but the availability of energy resources is also a burning and divisive question. Renewables Information 2003, from the International Energy Agency, shows that in the past decade, renewable energy sources, such as solar power, hydro, wind and combustible biomass resources have been gaining ground.