To the G8: Don’t Let Aid Perpetuate Barriers to Growth in Tunisia and Egypt

In this Bloomberg Echoes post, I argue that the United States should do whatever it can to promote economic freedom in the post Jasmine Revolution Middle East and North Africa, and strongly support economic leaders who are committed to creating a private market economy. This is the lesson learned from the transitions from government control to market economies two decades ago in Eastern Europe, especially Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. government strongly supported those economic reforms—the removal of price controls, of barriers to new businesses, and of subsidies of old state enterprises, along with a restoration of the rule of law and property rights. And the Uniited States also supported the reformers, including Leszek Balcerowicz in Poland, who carried out the reforms against much oppostion.

In this regard it is alarming to hear that the G8 support package for Tunisia and Egypt–being developed at the meeting in Deauville France today and tomorrow–may do just the opposite: encourage more government subsidies and controls. Indeed, a recommend list of actions in a recent letter to the G8 from top economists—mostly from France but including Joe Stiglitz and Nouriel Roubini from the US—starts with the case for government subsidies. But as argued persuasively by Ned Phelps yesterday in an article in Le Monde (in English here), Tunisia needs an immediate and dramatic reduction in the barriers to entrepreneurship and job creation. It needs to open the economy, domestically and internationally, and the G8 can help in both as it implements a support package.

Are there new leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) who will support such economic changes? Of course there are. For example, it is very encouraging that the new Tunisian central bank Governor Mustapha Nabli, who obtained his Ph.D. in economics from UCLA in 1974, is a reformer. His recently published book Breaking the Barriers to Higher Economic Growth in MENA argues that “at its core, [economic growth] requires the region’s public sector-dominated economies to move to private sector-driven economies, from closed economies to more open economies, and from oil-dominated and volatile economies to more stable and diversified economies.” His case is based on hard facts including a careful empirical comparison of Eastern European transitions with MENA, and an analysis of reform in practice, which strongly suggest a serious, relatively fast-paced reform worthy of strong support from the United States and the whole G8.

About John B. Taylor 117 Articles

Affiliation: Stanford University

John B. Taylor is the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University and the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He formerly served as the director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where he is now a senior fellow, and he was founding director of Stanford's Introductory Economics Center.

Taylor’s academic fields of expertise are macroeconomics, monetary economics, and international economics. He is known for his research on the foundations of modern monetary theory and policy, which has been applied by central banks and financial market analysts around the world. He has an active interest in public policy. Taylor is currently a member of the California Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, where he also previously served from 1996 to 1998. In the past, he served as senior economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1976 to 1977, as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1989 to 1991. He was also a member of the Congressional Budget Office's Panel of Economic Advisers from 1995 to 2001.

For four years from 2001 to 2005, Taylor served as Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs where he was responsible for U.S. policies in international finance, which includes currency markets, trade in financial services, foreign investment, international debt and development, and oversight of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He was also responsible for coordinating financial policy with the G-7 countries, was chair of the working party on international macroeconomics at the OECD, and was a member of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. His book Global Financial Warriors: The Untold Story of International Finance in the Post-9/11 World chronicles his years as head of the international division at Treasury.

Taylor was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Award for his overall leadership in international finance at the U.S. Treasury. He was also awarded the Treasury Distinguished Service Award for designing and implementing the currency reforms in Iraq, and the Medal of the Republic of Uruguay for his work in resolving the 2002 financial crisis. In 2005, he was awarded the George P. Shultz Distinguished Public Service Award. Taylor has also won many teaching awards; he was awarded the Hoagland Prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching and the Rhodes Prize for his high teaching ratings in Stanford's introductory economics course. He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his research, and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society; he formerly served as vice president of the American Economic Association.

Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1984, Taylor held positions as professor of economics at Princeton University and Columbia University. Taylor received a B.A. in economics summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University in 1973.

Visit: John Taylor's Page, Blog

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