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Center for Economic and Policy Research;
The IMF's most recent World Economic Outlook (WEO), published last week, projects world economic growth will slow, from 4.8 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent next year. Throughout the report, there are numerous concerns expressed about the "fragility" of the global economic recovery. The Acting Chair of the Executive Board states that "[t]he recovery is losing momentum temporarily during the second half of 2010 and will likely remain weak in the first half of 2011, as extraordinary policy stimulus is gradually withdrawn."
In view of the report and its findings, one might expect a strong bias towards continuing fiscal stimulus in weak economies, and a bias against fiscal consolidation. However, this paper finds that the IMF continues to support pro-cyclical policies in some countries, fiscal consolidation in many others, and clearly does not support central bank financing of fiscal stimulus -- even in countries such as the United States -- where the threat of high inflation is very remote.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is beginning to fracture. Its members, sharing the triumphalism that underpinned U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War, took on burdens that have proved more difficult than expected. Increasingly, they are failing to meet the challenges confronting them. The principal problem is Afghanistan. After the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, NATO for the first time invoked Article V, its pledge that an attack against one member country would be considered an attack against all. But NATO's forces are being relentlessly attacked by the Taliban, and among NATO countries popular support for maintaining troops there is fading. If NATO fails in Afghanistan, the consequences could be as damaging for its survival as the Vietnam War was for the now defunct Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. There are a number of other problems, which may not reach the importance of Afghanistan, but which nevertheless pose serious complications. These include the proposed deployment of antiballistic missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic; a potential flashpoint in Kosovo, where the Albanian majority's insistence on independence could divide alliance members; and the growing tension between Russia and some of its neighbors. NATO's inability to deter a cyber attack that virtually paralyzed NATO member Estonia's access to the internet -- an attack evidently launched from Russia but without any clear link to the Russian government -- raises questions about the alliance's ability to protect its newest members. In short, NATO is facing new challenges, and the future of the alliance is unclear. The United States should begin discussions with our allies about what a post-NATO world would look like.
Central Europe has grown freer and more prosperous since the collapse of communism. Yet liberal parties, which were responsible for bringing those advances about, are on the defensive. In the last year, liberals have suffered a number of electoral setbacks throughout the region. Some commentators saw the poor performance of the liberal parties as a sign of weakening public support for the free market, but public opinion polls in Central Europe show continued support for capitalism. Certainly, there is no widespread support for a return to economic dirigisme, which failed so spectacularly in the past.
Rather, one of the most important reasons for public discontent with the political establishment is government corruption. The pervasiveness of corruption in Central Europe is partly attributable to the underdevelopment of civil society and the concomitant paucity of effective restraints on the conduct of the political class. Moreover, despite the tremendous progress toward economic freedom that Central European countries have made since the fall of communism, the role of the state in the economy remains large. The private sector is burdened with too many regulations, and governments continue to spend some 44 percent of the region's gross domestic product. To lessen the problem of corruption, the size and the scope of the state must be reduced.
"Happiness research" studies the correlates of subjective well-being, generally through survey methods. A number of psychologists and social scientists have drawn upon this work recently to argue that the American model of relatively limited government and a dynamic market economy corrodes happiness, whereas Western European and Scandinavian-style social democracies promote it. This paper argues that happiness research in fact poses no threat to the relatively libertarian ideals embodied in the U.S. socioeconomic system. Happiness research is seriously hampered by confusion and disagreement about the definition of its subject as well as the limitations inherent in current measurement techniques. In its present state happiness research cannot be relied on as an authoritative source for empirical information about happiness, which, in any case, is not a simple empirical phenomenon but a cultural and historical moving target. Yet, even if we accept the data of happiness research at face value, few of the alleged redistributive policy implications actually follow from the evidence. The data show that neither higher rates of government redistribution nor lower levels of income inequality make us happier, whereas high levels of economic freedom and high average incomes are among the strongest correlates of subjective well-being. Even if we table the damning charges of questionable science and bad moral philosophy, the American model still comes off a glowing success in terms of happiness.
This paper examines policies for the support of families with children, in particular child-related financial transfers and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. The analysis is mainly focused on countries with institutionalized welfare states -- primarily Western European and other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries -- because that is where child-related benefits and services have the longest history. It focuses on the unfolding of the relevant transfers and services from the period of their inception in the early decades of the 20th century to the reforms that are currently underway. The paper highlights a number of core insights relevant to policy planning and decision-making for child-related transfers and ECEC services: Child-related financial transfers and ECEC services should not be seen as alternatives to each other, both are needed to provide continuous support across the life cycle. Children's needs and well-being should be at the forefront when these policies are designed and put in place. While this may appear self-evident, policies that are intended to meet several objectives can result in a situation where the needs of children are not at the heart of the measures that are assumed to benefit them. The paper also underlines the need for gender equality to be a frontline consideration in this (as in other) policy domains. This paper was produced for UN Women's flagship report Progress of the World's Women 2015-2016, and is released as part of the UN Women discussion paper series.
Innovations in Civic Participation;
This regional report examines movements toward national governmental policies that involve young people in community service and volunteerism in 15 countries of Eastern Europe, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia andMontenegro, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In the past, studies examining this region had neither identified whether national youth service policies (NYSP) exist, nor examined the factors that promote or hinder movements to create such policies. Research for this report reveals that none of these countries have a national policy that involves youth in community service. However, research described in this report identifies movements that exist to develop policies in 7 of the 15 countries, including Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Macedonia, and Serbia Montenegro. Respondents in these countries indicate that domestic and international nongovernmental organizations lead the NYSP movement by providing formal opportunities for youth to serve, and that an increasing number of youth recognize the value of such service programs.
Respondents identified the main barriers to NYSP development, including the general lack of youth-focused policies, lack of research on best practices for creating and implementing youth policies, shortage of financial resources necessary to fund policies and programs, lack of awareness in society and among government leaders of the benefits of youth service, and social-political background in countries that do not have a history of youth service and volunteerism. This report concludes with recommendations concerning the development of NYSP that respondents make to policy makers of their countries.