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East Asia and Pacific

Spending on bling: What explains the demand for status goods?

Martin Kanz's picture

When people spend money, their decisions are often influenced by the desire to signal wealth and attain social status. This insight is not entirely new – even Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations, complains that his contemporaries spend too much on “status goods” that are not a necessity of life, and which they most likely can’t afford.

Social signaling motives in consumption seem to be present in many different economic settings, and may in fact be so widespread that they can be linked to larger economic phenomena, such as inequality and persistent poverty. Studies using household surveys show, for example, that the poor around the world spend a strikingly large share of their income on visible expenditures, which may have negative implications for asset accumulation, household indebtedness, and investments in education.The same pattern has been shown to hold for ethnic minorities in the Unites States – so much so, that a recent study argues that differences in conspicuous consumption may account for as much as one third of the wealth gap between Whites and African Americans

Four policy approaches to support job creation through Global Value Chains

Ruchira Kumar's picture
 Maria Fleischmann / World Bank

Mexico created over 60,000 jobs between 1993 to 2000 upgrading the apparel value chain from assembly to direct distribution to customers.  (Photo: Maria Fleischmann / World Bank)

As we discussed in our previous post, Global Value Chains can lead to the creation of more, inclusive and better jobs. GVCs can be a win-win for firms that create better jobs while they enjoy greater efficiency, productivity, and profits. However, there is a potential trade-off between increasing competitiveness and job creation, and the exact nature of positive labor market outcomes depends on several parameters. Given the cross-border (and, therefore, multiple jurisdictive) nature of GVCs, national policy choices to strengthen positive labor outcomes are limited. However, national governments can make policy decisions to facilitate GVC participation that is commensurate with positive labor market outcomes.

Encouraging investment policy and promotion reform in times of uncertainty

Amira Karim's picture

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is often considered by economists and policymakers as integral to economic growth – a cornerstone of modernization, income growth and employment.

Yet for many countries, FDI can be elusive, and chasing it can lead policymakers to frustration.

Even economies built by FDI – for example, Singapore – are on this continuous chase, aware that attracting and retaining FDI is not an easy task. They also know that the benefits of FDI do not accrue automatically and evenly across all countries, sectors and local communities.

But first, there must be a realization of the importance of FDI. Singapore – a country once called a “political, economic and geographic absurdity” by its first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew – never doubted the centrality of FDI, promoting it from the outset of its independence. Singapore saw in FDI an opportunity to develop a substantial industrial base, to create new jobs for its then-poor and low-skilled workforce, and to generate crucial tax revenues for its nascent government to spend on education and infrastructure.

Two decades after that initial strategic acceptance of FDI, Singapore emerged as a newly industrialized economy.

It is little surprise, then, that Singapore’s experience was highlighted at a recent World Bank Group peer-to-peer learning event here in the city-state. Responding to strong demand from client countries, two teams from the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice – the Investment Policy and Promotion (IPP) team and the Singapore Hub team – co-hosted the learning forum entitled "Promoting Investment Policy and Promotion Reform in Times of Uncertainty."

Supported by SPIRA – the Support Program on Investment Policy and Related Areas – the forum enabled some 80 government officials from East Asia, South Asia and Africa to share their experiences in economic and export diversification; to discuss the role of international trade and investment agreements as leverage toward domestic reforms; and to discuss how to translate investment policy and promotion strategies into measurable results. SPIRA, implemented by the IPP team, supports client countries across all regions in attracting, facilitating and retaining different types of FDI.

Chongqing, China: Revitalizing urban growth, sustainably

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
China is shifting its focus away from urban expansion toward regional revitalization and urban regeneration. Chongqing, a megacity in southwestern China, is exploring ways to regenerate urban growth and build resilient, livable, and sustainable communities.  

What are Chongqing's plans? How will they affect the lives of the city's residents? Watch a video as World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Deputy Director Zhou Tao from the Chongqing Municipal Development and Reform Commission discuss urban regeneration
 
 

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What China’s Appetite for Meat means for Mongolia

Miles McKenna's picture
The concept of farm-to-fork can be complicated when it comes to meat. Fresh meat could be from the farm next door—or it could be from 10,000 kilometers away, having just arrived on a flight from the other side of the globe. With advances in cold chain transportation and logistics, distances that once took meat weeks to travel are covered in days, if not hours. And for a handful of low- and middle-income countries, meat exports are big business.  

Competitive Cities: A Game Changer for Malaysia

Judy Baker's picture
Photo: mozakim/bigstock


As an upper-middle income country with a majority of its population living in cities, Malaysia is situated among the countries that prove urbanization is key to achieving high-income status. Asking “How can we benefit further from urbanization?” Malaysian policymakers have identified competitive cities as a game changer in the 11th Malaysia Plan. To this end, the World Bank has worked with the government to better understand issues of urbanization and formulate strategies for strengthening the role of cities through the report, “Achieving a System of Competitive Cities in Malaysia.”

While Malaysia’s cities feature strong growth, low poverty rates, and wide coverage of basic services and amenities, challenges still remain. 

Its larger cities are characterized by urban sprawl, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, where population density is low for an Asian metropolis. This inefficient urban form results in high transport costs and negative environmental impacts. This is matched by low economic density, indicating Malaysia’s cities can do better in maximizing the economic benefits from urban agglomeration.  



A second challenge hampering Malaysia’s cities is the highly centralized approach to urban management and service delivery, a system that impedes the local level, and obstructs service delivery and effective implementation of urban and spatial plans.

Third is a growing recognition of the importance of promoting social inclusion to ensure that the benefits of urbanization are widely shared.

Vietnam studies Malaysia’s experience with facilitating state relationships

Jana Kunicova's picture
Photo: Sasin Tipchai/bigstock



Vietnam has a vision. By 2035, it aspires to become a prosperous, creative, equitable and democratic nation. Achieving this ambitious goal has set Vietnam on a path of transformation on multiple fronts – economic, social, and political.

At the core of this transformation is the re-orientation of the state’s role in economic management.  This requires adapting Vietnam’s economic governance so that the state becomes a skilled facilitator of three types of relationships: among government agencies, between the state and market, and between the state and citizens. 

Not too long ago, Malaysia walked in Vietnam’s shoes, implementing its own wide-ranging transformation. In 2009, Malaysia embarked on the National Transformation Program (NTP) that included focus on both government and economic transformations.  Malaysia had also adopted good practices that simplified regulations, which made it easier for firms to interact with the state.

Disasters, funds, and policy: Creatively meeting urgent needs and long-term policy goals

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture

Photo: tro-kilinochchi / Flickr

When it comes to responding to disasters, time is of the essence. Help needs to come immediately to save lives; recovery and reconstruction have to start swiftly to lessen the impact.

However, while money is critical to this response, it’s not just about funding. Indeed, funds need to match the event scale, target the right areas and sectors, and smoothly flow to communities in need. But in order for that to happen, sound public policy on risk and frameworks have to be in place.  

To address both urgent financial needs while pursing strategic disaster risk management policy goals, countries have been using the World Bank’s development policy loan with a catastrophe deferred drawdown option or, more widely known as the Cat DDO.  

Partnerships, cornerstone to achieve Indonesia’s sustainable peatland restoration targets

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Peatland. Photo: Tempo


“Peatlands are sexy!” They aren’t words you would normally associate with peatlands, but judging from the large audience that participated in the lively discussion on financing peatland restoration in Indonesia at the “Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter” conference, held May 18 in Jakarta, it seems to be true. The observation was made by Erwin Widodo, one of the speakers in the World Bank-hosted panel discussion at the event.

For me, it was a great honor to moderate a panel comprised of several of the leading voices in the space: Kindy Syahrir (Deputy Director for Climate Finance and International Policy, Finance Ministry), Agus Purnomo (Managing Director for Sustainability and Strategic Stakeholder Engagement, Golden Agri-Resources), Erwin Widodo (Regional Coordinator, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020), Christoffer Gronstad (Climate Change Counsellor, Royal Norwegian Embassy), and Ernest Bethe (Principal Operations Officer, IFC).

It was the right mix of expertise to address the formidable challenges in securing resources to finance sustainable peatland restoration in Indonesia. These include finding solutions to plug the financing gap, and identifying instruments and the regulatory framework necessary to strengthen the business case for peatland restoration. A significant amount of finance has been pledged. But one of the key issues the panel needed to address was how to redirect available finance towards more efficient and effective outcomes to reach sustainable restoration targets.


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