Constraints faced by MSMEs hindering economic growth in Equatorial Guinea

Guest blog written by Cesar A. Mba Abogo

I signed up for the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) course after having completed Leading Economic Growth (LEG), where my understanding of the economic growth challenges facing my country, Equatorial Guinea, had been literally reset. Attending LEG was a bit of cathartic therapy for me, as I had been Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning in a particularly exceptional period. From April 2019 to October 2020, Equatorial Guinea had closed a bailout programme with the IMF and launched a wide-ranging catalogue of macro-fiscal stabilisation and governance improvement measures. In the midst of these far-reaching reforms, COVID19 had emerged as an existential challenge for which humanity was ill-prepared. LEG helped me to sharpen my understanding of economic complexity, to re-examine my tenure as head of my country’s Ministry of Finance, and to understand a notion that now seems like a no-brainer: the change space, this chessboard where reformers struggle between what is feasible in the local ecosystem versus the legitimacy required by external demands.

Throughout LEG, the growth challenge I focused on was the low productivity of the non-oil sector as an obstacle to inclusive growth. The narrative and available data led me to the thesis that this low productivity was an unintended consequence of Equatorial Guinea’s over dependence on the oil sector for more than two decades. I came to a somewhat stark but hopeful conclusion: Equatorial Guinea was crossing a bridge under turbulent waters on a journey into the unknown that required an adaptive strategy that generates knowledge and facilitates evidence-based, sequential and iterative decision-making.

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Health system transformation in Poland

Guest blog by Robert Moldach

I am fortunate to live in times when Europe and Poland in particular have undergone an incredible transformation. As a child, I remember the street protests my parents took part in, their talks about the Warsaw Pact troops invading Czechoslovakia, and the anti-Semitic campaign of the late 1960s. My student years coincided with the Solidarity uprising and the martial law that followed. The beginning of my academic career fell during a time of darkness and total economic collapse of the system. Then, in 1989, came the country’s revival, changes in the political system, and economic revolution. We joined the OECD, NATO, and eventually became a member of the European Union recording an extraordinary rate of economic growth. And while this is an undeniable success, along the way we made countless mistakes, some of cardinal importance. We could have approached challenges better such as social inclusion, coherent territorial development, utilization of existing economic potential, foreign direct investment, and finally understanding the sense of us.

The lesson on the “Sense of Us” is in fact the single most important thing I take away from the HKS Leading Economic Growth program. Are we Poles or Europeans, resettled from the eastern borderlands or residents of this land for centuries, Catholics or communists disguised as democrats? And while we intuitively feel how it is, or rather how it should be, we are divided and polarized as a nation in probably every possible direction. The thing that economically we continue to grow at an above-average rate does not change the fact that our economic vehicle is experiencing cracks, fractures and tears that are increasingly difficult to mitigate.

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Recovering better after COVID: Lao PDR

Guest blog by Felipe Morgado

Enrolling in the Leading Economic Growth executive programme at Harvard Kennedy School has been a tremendously enriching experience. I am impressed with the number of key ideas and learnings covered over the past ten weeks across both the theory of economic growth and the practice of leadership in public policy. They will certainly have an impact as I continue to build my career at the United Nations.

As an economist by training, I joined the course already with a solid background in development economics. However, I was eager to learn more about Prof. Hausmann’s work on complexity, product space, knowhow and growth diagnostics. They gave me a fresh perspective on investment, trade and industrial policy – reflecting on past mistakes, and articulating ways to promote sustainable growth as the world seeks to recover from COVID-19.

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