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UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Programme as instrument for growth and development



Firstly, it is important to introduce the basic definitions and features of the creative economy approach. There is no consensus in literature around the definition of creative economies and creative industries.

Scholarly interest in the creative economy arose quite recently, shifting the topic from a marginal position into the centre of various analyses and statistics. Despite the definitional and taxonomical issues, in general the creative economy concerns the activities that generate or exploit knowledge or information.

An issue compounding the difficulty to define the creative economy and creative industries lies in the “grey zone” between the border of cultural and creative industries and traditional manufacturing, which allows for the blending of artistic imagination with handcrafted knowledge, creating unique products of renown. However, there is consensus around the importance of the creative economy. Over the period 2000-2005, trade in creative goods and services increased at an average annual rate of 8.7%. World exports of creative products were $424.4 billion in 2005 as compared to $227.5 billion in 1996. Creative services in particular enjoyed an export growth of 8.8 % annually between 1996 and 2005 (UNCTAD, 2008).

The UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport defines the creative industries as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (DCMS 2001, p. 4)” The British website for creative industries adds to the above mentioned definition that the creative industries encompass the following sub-fields: advertising, architecture, arts & culture, craft, design, fashion, games, music, publishing, tech, TV and film. There is no consensus around the appropriateness of categorizing gastronomy and engineering within the creative economy.

A strong interest in creative economy comes from the United Nations. UNESCO, in its “Understanding the Creative Industries” brief, states that creative and cultural industries make up the Creative Economy. Creative industries include cultural industries, such as printing, publishing, multimedia, crafts etc, and all artistic productions. One of the most common definition of cultural industries describes them as “industries which combine the creation, production and commercialization of creative contents which are intangible and cultural in nature.”

According to UNCTAD Creative Economy Report 2013, the creative economy, term popularized in 2001, designates various kinds of industries from arts to technology, as creativity can extend beyond the cultural domain. There is consensus around the individual elements of the Creative Economy. Sports, arts, literature, zoos, museums are possible fields of the Creative Economy.

UNCTAD acknowledge the significance of the creative economy, as its Creative Economy program testifies. Edna Dos Santos Duisenberg founded the program in 2004, aimed at assisting governments in policy-making and driving technical cooperation in developing countries concerning the creative economy. The Creative Economy programme launched by UNCTAD aims at combining development with innovation and creativity to create different trajectories leading to development. The program goes beyond the merely “economic”, limited to basic indicators, view of development, by promoting a holistic approach to it, which takes into account social and non-strictly numerable factors as (but not limited to): cultural identities, social disparities, economic ambitions and technological disadvantages, which are of paramount importance in today’s globalized world. In fact, it is necessary to consider the changes brought about by globalization and connectivity, making cultural identities more fluid or accentuated, accentuating or levelling social disparities, and modifying cultural production. Indeed, the Creative Economy is vital to stimulate development, but also to reinforce cultural identity and diversity. Overall, it is a “powerful transformative force”, generating income and employment, thus fuelling sustainable development. It has the potential to enhance the prestige of the place where it originates and its identity. It is usually environmentally friendly and employs high skilled workers.

The ideas of creative economy found an interesting “application” during the recent EXPO in Milan. The UK Pavilion for the international exhibition is an example of the British interest – and also investment” – in the creative economy and has won the International Prize for Best Pavilion Architecture. The Pavilion meant to recreate the structure of a beehive, underlining the importance of bees in global food production. The creative industries in the UK provide over 1,808,000 jobs and generate 76.9bn£ a year to the UK economy (Creative Industries UK), contributing to output more than hospitality, utilities, agriculture, fisheries and forestry, but still significantly less than retail and manufacturing. Within the creative industries sector in the UK, the three largest sub-sectors are design, publishing, and television and radio, accounting for around 75% of revenues and 50% of employment. Also the EU is engaging with the creative economy on the institutional level. The EU has established a Commission for cultural and creative industries to promote innovation in education, professional mobility of artists, so that they have access to more markets and audiences, and financing schemes also at the EU level (Imprese culturali e creative in Italia).

In any case, it is important to underline the role of creative-economy related activities for developing and less developed countries which, due to the very nature of such activities, can capitalize strongly on them since that they offer a different way to development not strictly linked to “classical” models of industrial development. Linking again with activity of UNCTAD, their Creative Economy Programme has found empirical application in numerous Third World countries. In Mali in 2004 a creative economy model was designed and applied to the Festival sur le Niger, which blended the use of locally sourced products to stimulate local economy, the promotion of local culture, and the facilitation of interactions to enhance social cohesion. Other successful governments that have focussed on creative industries are Latin American states, which have undertaken a review of the creative industries. The Inter-American Development Bank has defined Latin American countries as the Orange Economy, namely a “group of linked activities through which ideas are transformed into cultural goods and services whose value is determined by intellectual property”. In Colombia, for instance, there is the Guide for Regional Mapping of the Creative Industries, providing a methodology to study the creative industries. In Africa, similarly, the Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa, set up in 2002 with the support of UNESCO, the African Union, the New York-based Institute of Cultural Enterprise and the Ford Foundation researches creative industries in the continent. It is a potentially good sign that developing continents show a moderate enthusiasm in the creative economy, which can foster growth, while it is surprising that highly developed countries roughly neglect the area.

The program functions thanks to the involvement of other international actors in addition to UNCTAD. The UNESCO’s mandate is to encourage countries to invest in creative industries and develop them. Other international stakeholders are the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and international organisations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the EU’s Education, Audiovisual and Cultural Executive Agency.

However, it is important to note that the program has encountered numerous obstacles. There is general scepticism over the utility of the Creative Economy, made up of small start-ups, which may be more a liability than an asset, due to alleged inefficiency. In fact, some governments remain to be convinced of the potential the Creative Economy offers and they need to overcome their uneasiness in allocating funds to the creative economy. Indeed, the critical factors for Creative Economy development is financing, in addition to intermediaries, actors, intellectual property rights, distribution networks, technical and entrepreneurial skills (see Creative Economy 2013 Report). For instance, in Africa creative resources are underutilized. The creative industries are among the most dynamic sector in world trade and should be able to benefit from other sectors such as tourism, which is mutually linked to the creative economy. Also, intellectual property rights and technology play a central role in the Creative Economy, to stimulate production, consumption, dissemination of cultural contents and developing countries should be able to capitalize on them.

(special thanks to Ms. Marianna Griffini)

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231,000 New Jobs Added in Western Balkans amid Ongoing Economic Challenges, Emigration

MD Staff



A 3.9 percent increase in employment over the last year has led to the creation of 231,000 new jobs throughout the six countries of the Western Balkans, according to the “Western Balkans Labor Market Trends 2018” report, launched today by the World Bank and the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw). Unemployment also fell from 18.6 percent to 16.2 percent, reaching historic lows in some countries.

Leading the way for employment in the region was Kosovo, which saw an increase of 9.2 percent, followed by Serbia (4.3 percent), Montenegro (3.5 percent), Albania (3.4 percent), FYR Macedonia (2.7 percent), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1.9 percent). Despite this progress, however, low activity rates – particularly among women and young people – along with high rates of long-term unemployment and a prevalence of informal work, continue to pose challenges for sustained economic growth in the region.

“The region has made great strides in improving labor market outcomes over the last year – meaning more people are finding jobs,” says Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Country Director for the Western Balkans. “However, we continue to see high rates of people who are not in employment, education or in training programs and we need to find ways to link them to future opportunities.”

Youth unemployment of 37.6 percent is a key challenge for the region. However, this rate is down from last year and nearly every country in the region is experiencing the lowest levels of youth unemployment since 2010. Country rates range from 29 percent in Montenegro and Serbia, to more than 50 percent in Kosovo. According to the report, it may be difficult for young people who become detached from jobs or education for long periods to reintegrate into the labor market. They also face a wage gap, earning up to 20 percent less than those who find employment sooner.

The report also notes that female employment rates are on the rise but they still remain low by European standards. The employment rate for women across the region stands at 43.2 percent, varying from a low of 13.1 percent in Kosovo to a high of 52.3 percent in Serbia. The gender gap in employment has also narrowed since 2010, ranging from 28.9 percentage points in Kosovo to 9.8 percentage points in Montenegro.

“Economic trends in the region look to be headed in the right direction,” says Robert Stehrer, Scientific Director of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. “Getting more people, particularly young and women into employment remains one of the key challenges in the region to sustain economic and social convergence.”

A number of obstacles to employment need to be addressed to reduce ongoing emigration from the region, especially common among young, educated people. In order to address this, further knowledge is needed. Countries in the region should synchronize their data on emigration and improve the registration and publication of migration statistics. By utilizing high-quality data that is in-line with international standards on workforce composition – both domestically and internationally – will produce accurate analysis of labor market dynamics in the region and allow for the design of policies that can simultaneously address the challenges of emigration and reap the benefits of migration.

Better linkages between secondary graduates and the labor market, as well as earlier interventions to retain students, can improve opportunities for employment. Policies, such as child care, care facilities for the elderly, flexible work arrangements and more part-time jobs would also promote labor market integration among women.

The report was produced with financial support from the Austrian Ministry of Finance.

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Economic Growth in Gulf Region Set to Improve following a Weak Performance in 2017

MD Staff



The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region witnessed another year of disappointing economic performance in 2017 but growth should improve in 2018 and 2019, according to the World Bank’s biannual Gulf Economic Monitor released today in Kuwait.

The region eked out growth of just 0.5% in 2017 – the weakest since 2009 and down from 2.5% the previous year. The GCC region’s economies experienced flat or declining growth as lower oil production and tighter fiscal policy took a toll on activity in the non-oil sector. External debt issuance continued to rise to help finance large fiscal deficits.

Economic growth is expected to strengthen gradually, helped by the recent partial recovery in energy prices, the expiration of oil production cuts after 2018, and an easing of fiscal austerity. The World Bank expects growth to firm to 2.1% in 2018 and rise further to 2.7% in 2019. Growth in Saudi Arabia is expected to rebound close to 2% in 2018-19 and to strengthen similarly elsewhere in the region.

“Policy attention is shifting towards deeper structural reforms needed to sever the region’s longer-term fortunes from those of the energy sector,” said Nadir Mohammed, World Bank Country Director for the GCC. “While the recent increase in oil prices provides some breathing space, policy makers should guard against complacency and instead double down on reforms needed to breathe new life into sluggish domestic economies, to create jobs for young people and to diversify the economic base. Any slippage could negatively impact the credibility of the policy framework and dampen investor sentiment.

Looking forward, there are several downside risks that may weigh on activity. Lower than expected oil prices could exert pressure on the OPEC producers to extend or deepen their production reduction agreement and dampen medium-term growth in the GCC countries.

Although fiscal and current account balances are improving, the region continues to face large financing needs and remains vulnerable to shifts in global risk sentiment and the cost of funding. Geopolitical developments and relations within the region could slow growth prospects. Slippage in the implementation of country reform plans arising from weak institutional capacity will rob the GCC of the benefits of fiscal adjustment and of deeper structural reforms that aim to diversify their economies.

Over the longer term, the enduring dominance of the hydrocarbon sector in the GCC economies argues for the vigorous implementation of structural reforms.  The terms of trade shocks in 2008-09 and in 2014-16 barely dented the dominance of the hydrocarbon sector in the GCC, with the bulk of the adjustment so far driven by spending cuts rather than the emergence of other traded sectors.

Structural reforms should focus on economic diversification, private sector development, and labor market and fiscal reforms. The GCC states’ long-term ambitions are articulated in various country vision statements and investment plans, and aspire to build competitive economies that utilize the talents of their people.

Implementing these structural transformation programs requires continuing political commitment from the GCC governments.

Saudi Arabia has shown considerable leadership in this regard: the 12 “vision realization plans” associated with its Vision 2030 aspirations aim to significantly transform the economy over the next 15 years by lifting the private sector share of the economy from 40 to 65% and the small and medium enterprise contribution to GDP from 20 to 35%.

Transforming from an oil-dependent economy to a self-propelled, human capital-oriented one requires some fundamental changes in the mindset; some also call this a new social contract,” said Kevin Carey, Practice Manager at the World Bank.  “GCC countries do not need to discard their existing social contracts but rather to upgrade them to reflect new realities of low for long oil prices, increasing global competition and the long-term threats from technological and climate change.”

As with other Arab countries, the GCC states also face sustainability, equity and welfare challenges related to their pension systems. These issues need to be addressed urgently to prevent any negative impact on economic growth, fiscal sustainability, and labor market stability.

Among the potential solutions that could help improve pension outcomes, the Gulf Economic Monitor underscores the importance of improving efficiency by reducing the prevailing fragmentation in many of the GCC pension systems; making access and contributions as simple and systematic as possible through the strengthening of ID and IT systems and the capabilities of pension administration bodies; and strengthening the governance of pension institutions. If GCC countries wish to attract global talent, they will also need to consider potential solutions for expatriates that help to meet their long-term pension and financial security needs.

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Poland: Build on current economic strength to innovate and invest in skills and infrastructure

MD Staff



Poland’s economic growth remains strong. Rising family benefits and a booming jobs market are lifting household income while poverty rates and inequality are falling, says a new OECD report.

In its latest Economic Survey of Poland, the OECD encourages policy-makers to build on the country’s current economic strength and social progress in order to tackle major remaining challenges. To sustain rising living standards Poland has to develop its capacity to innovate and invest in skills and infrastructure, as is acknowledged in the government’s Strategy for Responsible Development. The report says that the level of expenditure on research and development, despite recent welcome rises and tax incentives, remains weak. Vocational training suffers from limited business engagement which is hindering many of the country’s plentiful small enterprises from modernising and improving productivity.

Poland is also ageing rapidly. The working age population is projected to decline markedly over the coming decades. The lowering of the retirement age risks increasing poverty among the elderly, particularly women, says the OECD. Women often have patchy career paths and their retirement age is now set to remain unusually low. Workers should be made aware of the benefits of working longer for their future pension income, the report says.

Despite efforts to improve childcare, it remains insufficient and expensive, especially in rural areas. More investment in childcare is required as part of a range of measures to help combine work and family life and strengthen the number of women in employment.

Presenting the Survey in Warsaw, OECD Deputy Secretary-General Mari Kiviniemi said, “Poland is in a strong position. A dynamic job market together with the Family 500 + programme has helped make economic development more inclusive. Many people now benefit from new opportunities and rising incomes.”

“The time is ripe to ensure that living standards continue to rise. Strengthening innovation, improving infrastructure and investing in skills will be crucial. With rising labour and skills shortages, many employers now realise how important it is to invest in training. The government must seize this opportunity to engage with them.”

Measures to improve tax compliance have succeeded in shrinking the public deficit despite higher spending on social benefits. But more resources – or shift in how they are used – will be needed to raise  spending in priority areas such as public infrastructure, healthcare and higher education and research.

Limiting reduced VAT rates, increasing environmental taxes and giving a stronger role to the progressive personal income tax would raise additional revenue while contributing to more equity and a greener environment.

Plans to reform higher education and improve research excellence and industry-science co-operation are welcome, the report says. The general health status of Poles and access to healthcare are very unequal, while environmental quality is below the average of OECD countries. Tax rates on air and water pollution and on CO2 emissions are low and many environmentally harmful fuel uses are exempt from taxation. Raising environmental taxes would provide stronger incentives to replace ageing coal-intensive equipment with greener alternatives.

A clear immigration policy strategy is also needed to better monitor integration of foreigners in line with labour market needs, the protection of their rights and their access to education and training.

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