OECD Observer
The active advantages of passive housing

Imagine a house that keeps itself warm in the wintertime. Think of the savings in terms of fuel bills and unfriendly emissions. Such houses in fact exist. Called “passive houses”, the concept of these highly energy-efficient buildings took root in the 1990s, before slowly consolidating as a niche construction concept in the 2000s. Are passive houses now actively moving into the mainstream as sustainable buildings? 

Gas-propelled competitiveness

Energy has always been a hot political issue, but recently the temperature has been cranked up another notch. Large, persistent differences in natural gas and electricity prices across regions, coupled with a sustained period of high oil prices–unparalleled in market history–have many governments on edge. 

Tax: Addressing the hybrids

The global campaign will continue in 2014 to improve international tax rules, many of which were first designed over a century ago, and to make them fit for the era of globalisation and new technologies. In 2013 policy attention was focused on the problem of profit shifting by global firms and its negative effects on tax bases, with the OECD issuing its widely publicised 15-point Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) to leaders at the G20 summit in September. A key action area in the plan concerns crossborder tax hybrid schemes, with an OECD report due to address the problem in 2014. How do they work? 

Banking reform: A New Year’s resolution

When G20 regulators met in Pittsburgh in September 2009–it had taken them a full year to react to the collapse of Lehman Brothers–they set out an ambitious financial reform agenda. No stone would be left unturned, no shadow in the banking system unexposed. Action would cover all financial market segments and players, and lessons would be learned from the crisis to ensure that the 2008 debacle never happened again.

The automotive sector: Steering beyond the crisis

The car industry has taken a dent since the recession started to bite in 2008, but even before then, new patterns were emerging that would reshape the sector for a long time to come. 

Mixed global outlook

Global activity and trade are projected to strengthen gradually in 2014-15, but the recovery is likely to remain modest, the latest OECD Economic Outlook reported in November. 

Is Greece at a turning point?

The Greek economy has become good headline material for newspapers in recent years, but for all the wrong reasons. Having experienced a boom following its hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games, the party ended in spectacular fashion when Greece failed to meet its debt obligations in 2010 and came close to leaving the euro. 

For a resilient, inclusive and greener future

Could the recovery from the worst crisis in half a century finally take hold in 2014? There are several encouraging signs, not least in the US, where growth is expected to accelerate towards 3% in 2014. Activity is also picking up in Europe, Japan and China. Ireland has successfully exited the IMF/EU/ECB-supported programme.

EU-US trade and investment talks: Why they matter

Talks to free up more trade and investment between the European Union and the United States got under way early in 2013. A good agreement in 2014 would be a positive thing, and not just for the EU and the US. Here is why. 

Tourism’s changing profile

Tourism has shown remarkable staying power in recent years. Despite political instability, wars, natural disasters and a global financial crisis, the industry keeps getting up for another round. Japan is good example. After the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, the number of visitors to the country plunged. But in 2013 more than 9 million tourists visited the country, a record high. 

Ireland leaves the EU/IMF programme

Ireland leaves the three-year EU/IMF programme of assistance today Monday (16 December 2013). Our economy is growing, our finances have stabilised and unemployment is coming down. Our strategy is working in Ireland, and our people are getting back to work.

Realising Africa’s potential

Can Africa sustain its recent strong economic performances and benefit more from its abundant resources?

Innovation in Latin America

Latin America’s future as a region of innovation will be far from secure if investment in research and development (R&D) continues at current low levels.

Who’s smiling now?

Case studies of specific products, particularly in the electronics industry, show that value creation along a global value chain tends to be unevenly distributed among activities. The highest value creation is found in upstream activities, such as the development of a new concept, research and development (R&D) and the manufacturing of key components. But it is also found in downstream activities, such as marketing, branding and customer service.

Tax, decentralisation and intergovernmental relations

“A career in politics is no preparation for government”, said one of the characters in the 1970s British TV comedy series, Yes Minister. They had a point. After all, to newly elected politicians, government seems to be set up as a testing and complex route for taking (or stopping) decisions and implementing policy.

Africa: Making the most of its natural resources*

Africa has made tremendous progress over the last 13 years, going from “hopeless” to “aspiring”, in the words of The Economist. Certainly, Africa’s pace of growth has been impressive, averaging 5.1% of GDP per year–much faster than most OECD countries. Some have dismissed this simply as reflecting the recent boom in natural resource prices. They point to the fact that the prices of most commodities– agricultural, mineral and energy–doubled or even tripled over the same period, and warn that Africa’s growth will come to an end once resource prices taper off, as is happening now.

Africa must reap the benefits

Judging from media headlines, we are in a phase of Afro-optimism. Are we witnessing Africa’s economic take-off? The African Economic Outlook project, the result of a partnership of more than 10 years between the Development Centre, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Economic Commission for Africa, presents a contrasting assessment of the continent’s “emergence”.

The BRVM, solution for WAEMU’s Companies

"The BRVM is the unique stock exchange for eight countries in West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo."

“We offer investors a comprehensive, tailor-made service”

An interview with Nina Alida Abouna, Managing Director of the Investment and Export Promotion Agency (APIEX)

Central Bank of Nigeria: Reforms drive robust macroeconomic environment and engender financial stability
"To strengthen fi nancial stability, a macro-prudential framework was established to ensure that counter-cyclical effects of fi scal policies by the government and further downward trend in capital markets do not affect macroeconomic stability."

“We are now a key player in renewable-energy development in sub-Saharan Africa”


An interview with Thierno Bocar Tall, CEO of African Biofuels and Renewable Energy Company (ABREC)

Is the long view the answer to today’s epidemic of “instantaneous”?
If any word sums up today’s world, it’s definitely “instantaneous.” News spreads at the speed of light. Content is interpreted in mere seconds. Forecasts proliferate at a frenzied pace. But all this has a drawback: volatility increases. In such a context, it’s vital to take a step back. And it soon becomes clear, maintains the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, that a long-term view is more relevant than ever.

Ageing and Well-Being


The University of Geneva addresses a challenge for the individuals and for the world.

The greatest challenge for the G20: Restoring trust in business

“International tax reform demands strong national and G20 leadership, but the prize of a fair and efficient tax system is well worth the effort.” 

A view from Michael Izza, Chief Executive, ICAEW. ICAEW is a global accountancy body representing 140,000 Chartered Accountants across the world.

Mining local strengths from global commodities

Commodities have been a major driver of Africa’s growth story in recent years. But you may be surprised to hear that natural resources could have contributed far more than they actually did to Africa’s 5% average GDP growth over the last decade. Although Africa’s primary sector has expanded, its global share of natural capital dropped from 11.5% in 1995 to 8.5% in 2005.

New challengers for China: Africa’s emerging partnerships 2.0?

Though China has recently been a dominant force in trade and investment on the African continent, India and Korea are fast becoming serious challengers. How can African countries make more of these evolving trends? And what role can the traditional partners in the OECD area play?

Growing with the flow

The 2008 economic crisis shook up the landscape of financial flows to Africa and brought to the fore two major trends: an upsurge in foreign direct investment (FDI) and a parallel rise in remittances from abroad. Indeed, remittances outpaced both aid and FDI inflows with a compound growth rate over the past decade of 7.7%.

Towards new global development goals

The vision of a world without extreme poverty is not a utopia, but a reachable goal. Yet realising the vision demands that we meet urgent challenges, and that includes overhauling our development goals.

OECD Week Video in Council

If you didn't make the OECD Week this week, watch this 4 minute summary posted below:

The banking crisis: Lessons from Cyprus*

The Cyprus crisis is the result of policy mistakes and a failure of collective responsibility, as well as an illustration of what bad policy can do and could do if it’s not corrected. It’s now too late to take the easier steps that could have avoided the problems we’re facing today, but there are alternatives to the myopic, badly conceived plan proposed by the Troika (the committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that negotiates loans to the states worst affected by the sovereign debt crisis).