2021 Annual Report

Global Economy and Development

Global Economy and Development

The Pandemic’s Impact on the Global Economy

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the global economy faced numerous challenges and uncertainties, including slowing growth, increasing trade tensions, rising inequality, declining well-being, and deglobalization. Global Economy and Development scholars have been working to identify opportunities to ensure a more equitable future and dramatically improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The Promise and Challenge of Migration

Senior Fellow Dany Bahar continued his work on migration, outlining the untapped potential of refugees as an engine of economic growth. Bahar’s work on the Venezuelan refugee crisis was cited by Colombian President Iván Duque in a Washington Post op-ed. Bahar was also part of a high-level discussion at the White House on comprehensive strategies to address the root causes of migration and improve regional cooperation.

Global Venezuela migrants flag

Senior Fellow Joshua Meltzer has been examining the opportunities and risks of the global expansion of the internet, the spread of artificial intelligence (AI), and the increased use of data by businesses and consumers to transform international trade. He hosted the Forum for Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence, a series of high-level transatlantic AI dialogues with officials from the United States, EU, UK, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Australia, as well as representatives from industry and academia, which have covered topics including AI risk, AI standards, AI innovation, and data for AI.

TIGER index

The October 2020 TIGER Index found pockets of strength amid a rising second wave of COVID-19.

Senior Fellow Eswar Prasad, the New Century Chair in International Trade and Economics, published new editions of the Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery (TIGER), his biannual collaboration with the Financial Times, which has tracked global economic recovery for over a decade. The October 2020 edition, published as the second wave of the coronavirus was gathering strength, found pockets of strength in particular economies, but doubtful prospects for a broad-based and robust recovery. The April 2021 TIGER Index was released at a time when “vaccine euphoria” was being tempered by virus resurgence in some countries. This update found that the U.S. and China would likely drive global growth and that a strong and durable recovery depends on strong virus control efforts coupled with balanced monetary and fiscal stimulus to support demand and improve productivity.

Hope and desperation in the United States

Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow Carol Graham released an interactive mapping tool that allows users to explore nationwide state- and county-level trends in markers such as hope and optimism, helping shed light on the links between well-being, ill-being, and economic opportunity. Based on this work, the City of Santa Monica implemented its first annual well-being survey, which was used to frame municipal policy priorities for several years. Graham chaired the Brookings Working Group on Despair and Economic Recovery, which published an influential white paper proposing a task force to monitor trends and coordinate federal and local efforts to combat despair.

Accelerating growth and development in Africa

Foresight in Africa 2021The Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) conducts research to help establish long-term strategies for economic growth and development in Africa. AGI scholars draw on research, practical expertise, and convening power to develop effective solutions that maintain the momentum and broaden the benefits of growth in Africa.

Aloysius Uche Ordu joined the Africa Growth Initiative as director and senior fellow after serving as a vice president at the African Development Bank and a director at the World Bank Group. In March 2021, Ordu testified at the hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and provided policy guidance on elections in Africa, highlighting newfound continental solidarity, threats to democracy in Africa, and COVID’s impact on election integrity.

About 54 percent of the roughly $18 billion in annual assistance that the International Development Association (IDA) has committed to the world’s 75 poorest countries over the last three years has gone to 39 countries in Africa. In preparation for the IDA-20 replenishment discussions, Ordu led a roundtable in which the executive directors representing the African constituencies at the World Bank Group discussed priorities—including digital infrastructure, climate change, gender, and job creation—and coordinated a unified African voice for securing robust replenishment.

AGI accelerated research into how “industries without smokestacks” (IWOSS)—sectors outside of traditional manufacturing—might increase employment opportunities for sub-Saharan Africa’s burgeoning youth population. These sectors, such as agribusiness and ICT-based business services, can absorb a large number of moderately skilled workers at decent wages and are poised for sustainable growth. Vice President and Director of Global Economy and Development Brahima S. Coulibaly co-authored a report sharing deeper insights on the IWOSS sector in Africa and recommendations on those sectors offering the greatest employment potential.

Informing change in global education

The Center for Universal Education (CUE) is a leading policy center focused on universal quality education and skills development around the world. CUE plays a critical role in promoting actionable strategies to equip all learners to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the learning of over 1.5 billion students. Scholars from across CUE quickly mobilized to produce guidance and research to help with the recovery efforts. CUE’s research quantifying the costs of COVID-19 school closures was cited in congressional reports, such as one on balancing the costs of school closures against the health risks. CUE experts also developed an evidence-based tool for ministries of education to adopt and more successfully invest in education technology and published a report on how education can emerge stronger from COVID-19. This led to the creation of a Brookings community schools task force in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education.

World Bank-CUE Dialogue Series

With the World Bank, CUE continued its Dialogue Series, which brings together former heads of state—including former Mexican President Vincente Fox and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou—national education decision-makers, the donor community, and research and civil society organizations to learn from one another about COVID-19 education impacts and discuss protecting education investment.

A sustainable path for humanity

Brookings formally launched the Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) in October 2020 to provide a dedicated home for Global scholars who are working to advance sustainable development priorities within and across all countries. The Center helped galvanize energy around its scholars’ key contributions to this important goal.

To tackle climate change and COVID-19 recovery, the World Bank Group and IMF launched a High-Level Advisory Group (HLAG) on Sustainable and Inclusive Recovery Growth on June 15, which includes Senior Fellows Amar Bhattacharya and Homi Kharas as leading experts. They will lend their expertise and thought leadership to help identify the immediate challenges of a sustainable and inclusive recovery. Bhattacharya also published a paper on resetting climate action for the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, a group of over 50 finance ministers of which he and Lord Nicholas Stern serve as advisors to the co-chairs, arguing that they have a unique opportunity to design and implement comprehensive stimulus packages that can drive strong recovery and build a better future. He engaged with senior leadership of the COP26 Presidency, the office of the UN Secretary General and the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, President Macron and his team on the One Planet Summit, and the IMF. Senior Fellow George Ingram laid out concrete proposals for short-term, incremental fixes and more ambitious, longer-term ways in which the U.S. development function can be strengthened and enhanced.

Over 200 global experts across the world responded to a survey on multilateralism led by Senior Fellow Kemal Derviş. A report summarizing and analyzing the findings found a strong belief in the importance of multilateralism for peace, prosperity, and resilience, and a consensus that the need for effective multilateralism has increased over the last two decades. The report comes at a time when the Biden administration has re-committed the U.S. to multilateral cooperation and multiple initiatives—notably efforts to cut emissions to combat climate change. With the grim economic outlook in developing countries, Senior Fellow Homi Kharas focused on financing for development, including how to address COVID-19’s legacy of debt in developing countries. Kharas presented at the UN’s Meeting of Heads of State and Government—convened by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres—on development financing and debt challenges in the COVID-19 era. The Secretary-General’s policy brief, “Liquidity and Debt Solutions to Invest in the SDGs: The Time to Act is Now,” draws heavily from Kharas’s recent Brookings working paper on debt and development.

17 Rooms

Toward Action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 

17 Rooms, a joint initiative of Brookings and the Rockefeller Foundation co-chaired by CSD Director John McArthur, went virtual in 2020 with more than 200 participants joining one of 17 working groups to identify opportunities for cooperative action on the 17 SDGs over the subsequent 12–18 months. Individual Room summary documents informed an overall insights report, “Great Transitions: Doubling Down on the Sustainable Development Goals.”

In the United States, Senior Fellow Marcela Escobari advised public officials in Colorado, Idaho, and Texas on developing strategies for COVID-19 relief and recovery that support vulnerable workers and rebuild industries that provide employment and mobility. She also presented to the State Economic Development Executives (SEDE) Network—a group of more than 50 state economic development agency leaders—on policies to grow jobs and use job transitions data to help firms share workers and avoid layoffs.

Senior Fellow Tony Pipa convened the SDG Leadership Cities network, including a three-day virtual meeting with mayors and city leaders and a series of public conversations examining the role cities are playing on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. He also launched the City Playbook for Advancing the SDGs, an ongoing series of how-to briefs by experienced city government leaders to disseminate innovations and accelerate the local delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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