dilluns, 2 de juliol de 2018

SEDA,(Sustainable Economic Development Assessment). BCG


RELATED EXPERTISEPublic Sector, Growth, Globalization

The Private-Sector Opportunity to Improve Well-Being

July 21, 2016 By Douglas Beal , Enrique Rueda-Sabater , Su En Yong , and Shu Ling Heng



Leaders around the world increasingly recognize that GDP alone cannot give a full picture of a country's performance. The well-being of citizens is an even more important measure. The Boston Consulting Group’s Sustainable Economic Development Assessment (SEDA) is a powerful diagnostic designed to provide government leaders with a perspective on how effectively their countries convert wealth, as measured by income levels, into well-being.1 But while the public sector is increasingly focused on well-being and how to enhance living standards, it has not been clear what role there is—if any—for the private sector.
Our research shows that the private sector can make crucial contributions to well-being. When scalable, sustainable solutions to social challenges emerge, we often see the private sector playing a central role. Such efforts go beyond corporations' support for social or environmental causes that are unrelated to their primary business—often part of corporate social responsibility initiatives. Rather, companies can innovate within their core business models in a way that not only enhances shareholder value but also helps address important societal challenges.
To understand the opportunity for the private sector to make a meaningful social impact, we took a close look at the financial services sector and the issue of financial inclusion: access among underserved groups to services such as simple payment and money transfer services, deposit accounts, credit, and insurance. Among our most compelling findings: there is a clear and measurable link between financial inclusion and well-being. And this connection holds even when we control for income, which means that it is not due simply to wealthier countries' higher levels of both well-being and access to financial services.
In addition to the insights on financial inclusion, our 2016 assessment highlighted some interesting stories:
  • Countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as Ethiopia are making tremendous strides in improving well-being; 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in the top quintile in that measure.
  • Developed countries with relatively high current levels of well-being posted weak improvements in general. Greece had the lowest score for recent progress in well-being among the countries we assessed.
  • To better understand the dynamics in Europe, we divided Western European countries into three tiers by their scores in current level of well-being. The low-level countries, concentrated in southwest Europe, are performing particularly poorly in employment and are falling further behind the rest of the world in that area.
  • In a period of turmoil within the European Union, SEDA reveals that EU membership may have a significant positive effect in certain areas. Several Central and Eastern European countries are among those with the highest recent progress in sustainability (which includes income equality, civil society, governance, and environment). Those countries have recently joined or are in the process of joining the EU, and their gains are probably influenced by EU policies and standards.
  • China continues to produce well-being improvements in line with its rapid economic growth. India has a high recent-progress score, although its ability to convert its strong GDP growth into well-being improvements is slightly below average.
Notes:
1.
Our data set includes 162 countries plus Hong Kong, which is a special administrative region of China. For the sake of simplicity, we refer to all entities as “countries.”

Defining Well-Being



SEDA defines well-being through three fundamental elements that comprise ten dimensions. (See Exhibit 1.)
  • Economics, which includes income, economic stability, and employment
  • Investments, which includes education, health, and infrastructure
  • Sustainability, which covers two areas: the environment dimension and social inclusion, which comprises the income equality, civil society, and governance dimensions
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For each country, we calculate four measures that provide insight into relative levels of well-being:
  • The current level offers a snapshot of well-being today on a scale of 0 (lowest) to 100 (highest).
  • Recent progress examines how well-being has evolved from 2006 to 2014. This metric is also measured in relative terms, on a scale of 0 to 100.
  • Wealth to well-being compares a country’s current level of well-being with the level that would be expected given the nation’s per capita income. The expected level is represented by a coefficient of 1.0, which is based on global averages.
  • Growth to well-being compares how effectively a country has converted its economic growth into well-being improvements with the level that would be expected. This is also represented by a coefficient of 1.0, based on global averages.

Insights from SEDA 2016



The top ten countries in current-level SEDA scores are in Western Europe. Norway is number one, as it has been since we launched SEDA, in 2012.
When it comes to countries that made the greatest strides in well-being, Asia and Africa dominate. Ethiopia has the highest recent-progress score—gains there have been particularly strong in income and health. (See Strategies for Improving Well-Being in Sub-Saharan Africa, BCG Focus, May 2013.) Ethiopia's performance is emblematic of the gains in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole: 15 countries in the region are in the top quintile of recent-progress scores.
A number of Western countries, meanwhile, posted weak progress. Greece has the lowest recent-progress score among the countries we studied. Not surprisingly, the country's recent-progress performance in economics is also the weakest in our data set.
To better understand the dynamics in Europe, we divided Western European countries into three tiers by current-level scores. The most striking differences between the high and the low groups are in the education and employment dimensions. The countries in the top group (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway) are well above the average of those in the bottom group (Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain) in both employment and education and made greater progress than the low-tier countries in both dimensions.2 As a result, the gap between the top and bottom tier is growing. The low-tier countries are also below the median in employment and are falling further behind the rest of the world.
Myanmar is one of the new countries in our data set this year. The country has seen a period of major political and economic reforms, culminating in the transition this year to the first elected government in more than five decades. Amid such changes, the country is experiencing a surge in interest from foreign investors. Myanmar's evolution is reflected in its SEDA scores. While the country's current-level score is in the second lowest quintile, its recent-progress score is in the top quintile. Progress has been particularly strong in health and income.
Converting Wealth and Growth into Well-Being. SEDA allows us to control for wealth and growth when assessing well-being. Consequently, we can identify countries that are converting wealth or growth into well-being at above average rates.
When it comes to converting wealth into well-being, several countries stand out. Among them are Vietnam, Rwanda, Albania, and Ethiopia. (See Lotus Nation: Sustaining Vietnam's Impressive Gains in Well-Being, BCG report, March 2016.) (See Exhibit 2.)
Notes:
2.
The midlevel tier included Belgium, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.


Meanwhile, three Balkan nations are leaders when it comes to converting growth into well-being: Croatia (which holds the number one position), Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. (See Exhibit 3.) Poland, which had the highest growth-to-well-being coefficient in 2015, continued its strong performance and is in the fifth spot this year.


China continues to produce well-being improvements in line with its robust economic growth from 2006 to 2014. The country's gains have been well above the rest of the world's in investments—health, education, and infrastructure. But China continues to lag behind the median in sustainability—particularly in the environment dimension.
India also has an above average wealth-to-well-being coefficient. India's overall progress, however, is slightly below what would be expected given its growth rate from 2006 to 2014.
Patterns Across Groups of Countries. Our 2016 analysis shows that most of the patterns we identified in 2015 persist—with some interesting variations.
  • Both this year and last, we found that countries with high current-level scores in sustainability made the greatest progress in that area. Countries with low current-level sustainability scores posted recent progress below the median and so were falling further behind. This year, the pattern continues, with particularly strong gains by Eastern and Central European countries. The strong performance among some of those countries reflects changes that were in part a result of recently joining or being in the process of joining the EU.
  • This year, most oil-rich countries (those that earn rents from oil that represent more than 10% of GDP) were again below average at converting both wealth and growth into well-being. In our 2015 and 2016 analyses, the current-level score for this group lagged behind the score for the rest of the world significantly in the area of governance.
  • This year and last, we found that countries with faster economic growth tended to have much lower recent-progress scores in the environment. China, for example, posted strong economic growth from 2006 to 2014 but has a weak current-level score in the environment and is continuing to fall behind in that dimension.
  • Our research also continues to highlight the impressive advances in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, countries in the region posted gains in line with the median in education and infrastructure and were well above the median in health. This year, the group continues to outpace the median significantly in health and is slightly above the median in education.
  • This year, we took a closer look at another topic: infrastructure. We divided countries in our data set into three groups according to current-level infrastructure scores: high, midlevel, and low. We found that countries with high current-level infrastructure scores did not post high recent-progress scores in that dimension—not surprising, given that they generally did not have as much room for improvement. Countries in the middle group made the most progress in infrastructure, much greater than that of the low current-level group. The weak progress of the bottom group has major implications for financial inclusion, as we discuss below.

Financial Inclusion and Well-Being



To understand how the private sector can contribute to well-being, we took a close look at the area of financial inclusion.
How can this be measured? The most basic financial service to which an individual can have access is an affordable financial account. Such accounts give people a safe way to deposit money, receive salary and other kinds of payments, and transfer funds to relatives. With that in mind, we used the World Bank's summary measure of financial inclusion: the percentage of individuals over the age of 15 who have a financial account, either a bank or a mobile-money account.3 Mobile-money accounts are typically provided by telecommunications companies.
By this measure, there has been major progress over the past several years. From 2011 through 2014, the number of people with access to a financial account rose more than 25%, from 2.5 billion (51% of the world's adult population) to 3.2 billion (62%).
Progress, however, has not been uniform. Over the past decade, significant gains in financial inclusion have been made in East African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The growth in mobile accounts represents much of those gains. India and China have also made major strides. From 2011 to 2014, 185 million people in India and 188 million in China became first-time bank account holders.
In many wealthier countries, the challenge is one of depth—providing disadvantaged groups with financial services beyond very basic options and improving their usage rates. A key to achieving both goals is often the affordability of services. Among developed countries, the US made notable gains from 2011 to 2014, with the percentage of those over the age of 15 with an account jumping from 88% to 94%. But despite that progress, challenges remain; the unbanked rate in some states is more than twice the 6% national level.
As financial inclusion expands, what does this mean for well-being? Our SEDA analysis finds a clear and measurable connection between financial inclusion and well-being. This makes sense. Wealthier countries have more resources to invest in areas that support well-being. And given that financial inclusion tends to be higher in wealthier countries, it follows that countries with more financial inclusion would also have higher levels of well-being.
But even when we control for income, we see a clear and measurable relationship between financial inclusion and well-being. This means that among countries with the same income level, those with higher levels of financial inclusion are likely to have higher levels of well-being.  In fact, we find that financial inclusion accounts for 11% of the difference in well-being among countries—above and beyond what can be explained by differences in income levels.
Why would this be? The logical answer is that financial inclusion is linked to many aspects of well-being that have little to do with income. And our analysis found that three other SEDA dimensions have a particularly strong association with financial inclusion—civil society, governance, and infrastructure—associations that hold even when we control for income.
The link to infrastructure is particularly noteworthy and understandable. Reliable electricity, access to the internet, and well-developed mobile-phone networks—all of which are captured in the SEDA infrastructure dimension—have been key tools for expanding access to financial services in many emerging economies.
Notes:
3.
See the World Bank's Global Findex database on financial inclusion. The 2011 Findex numbers do not include mobile accounts. This has an impact on the percentage change in financial inclusion that is significant for only a few countries.

Lessons in Expanding Financial Inclusion



Any real momentum in financial inclusion requires a solid foundation that consists of two building blocks:
  • A sound and flexible regulatory structure that promotes innovation and competition while safeguarding consumers and the integrity of the financial system
  • A robust infrastructure, including reliable electricity and telecommunications networks and a well-functioning payment infrastructure  
Once that foundation is in place, the private sector can drive rapid innovation to expand financial inclusion. The pace of such innovation is reflected in an explosion of equity funding in the financial technology sector. In 2015, $22 billion was invested in privately held financial technology startups, up from just $4 billion in 2011.
We have examined four countries where private- and public-sector players have experimented with new approaches to expanding financial inclusion:
  • The mobile-phone-based money transfer service M-Pesa, launched by telecommunications company Safaricom in Kenya, took off thanks in part to a flexible regulatory environment and the way the service leveraged the many small retailers in the country.
  • In South Africa, strong financial regulations and the presence of large national retail chains have enabled new business models for increasing financial inclusion. Banks such as Commonwealth Bank have teamed up with large retailers, which serve as a massive distribution network for reaching previously unbanked citizens.
  • In India, the government has been a major catalyst. A push to give all citizens a national ID, along with new regulations that allow companies other than financial institutions to operate as “payment banks,” is expanding financial inclusion.
  • In Peru, the government has linked up with banks, telecommunications companies, and other private-sector players to promote the development of one mobile-payment system. The goal: to encourage companies to use that system to offer a slew of new, low-cost financial products and services to Peruvians who are currently excluded from the system.
These experiences highlight how various factors influence what works and what doesn't. And they underscore a critical lesson: approaches that are effective in one country are not always transferable to others.

The Private-Sector Opportunity



As we can see in our study of financial inclusion, private enterprises can create social benefits that strengthen well-being. And they can do this in the course of operating their core business—not as a side activity.
To avoid missing such opportunities, CEOs and other private-enterprise leaders—in particular, those with large footprints in emerging markets—can start by asking themselves two questions:    
  • Have we explored how our core business model can create social value?
  • How integrated are our corporate social responsibility and government relations efforts with our core business model? Are they a distraction from core operations—or can we use them to amplify and document the social value we create through core activities? 
The private sector has a major opportunity to contribute to the well-being of people around the world. And if companies do this effectively, they can boost shareholder value in the process.
Download the Full Report

divendres, 1 de juny de 2018

Una lección de (buena) economía La economia del bien comun-REFLEXIONES DEL NOBEL JEAN TIROLE

Una lección de (buena) economía

 La economia del bien comun-REFLEXIONES DEL NOBEL JEAN TIROLE 

Antonio Argandoña

El mercado necesita instituciones, leyes y normas que favorezcan la transparencia y la competencia

 

En nuestra sociedad dividida por la crisis económica, que rechaza el diálogo y busca soluciones simplistas para problemas complejos, es muy necesario que se alcen voces que propongan amplitud de miras, que nos ayuden a entender a los que piensan de otro modo, a salir de los supuestos de siempre y a no aceptar sin escrutinio las recetas populistas o partidistas. Jean Tirole, prestigioso economista francés, premio Nobel de Economía en 2014, es una de esas voces, que habla con sencillez y humildad en un libro reciente, 'La economía del bien común' (Barcelona, Taurus, 2017).
No voy a contar lo que dice, porque el libro es grueso (más de 550 páginas), aunque su lenguaje no es técnico. Sí que me referiré a algunos de sus mensajes, que, como he dicho, necesitamos escuchar hoy. Por ejemplo: seamos conscientes de las limitaciones de nuestro conocimiento. O, tomando las palabras de otro gran economista de hace un siglo, “en las ciencias sociales no hay verdades absolutas (excepto esta, claro)”.

Normas sociales y rutinas de comportamiento

Esto es muy útil para los economistas, porque, a estas alturas de nuestra ciencia, ya sabemos que los seres humanos no somos tan racionales como dicen nuestros modelos; que nos dejamos influir por las normas sociales y por las rutinas de comportamiento; que la información está repartida de modo muy desigual, y que frecuentemente creemos lo que queremos creer, no lo que se presenta ante nosotros. Y me atrevo a poner énfasis en estas limitaciones y tergiversaciones, porque las sufrimos todos, también los ciudadanos de a pie.
Entretodos

“Pero, si esto es así, ¡estamos perdidos!, dice el lector”. Nuestros 'expertos' no son de fiar en lo que nos dicen, y nosotros, los que les escuchamos, tampoco. Bueno, esto ya lo sabíamos desde hace siglos. Para eso hemos 'inventado' algunas soluciones. Una es el mercado, que Tirole defiende, pero con mucho realismo. El mercado necesita instituciones, leyes y normas que los protejan, que favorezcan la transparencia y la competencia (¡oh, qué importante es la competencia, subraya Tirole!).

No hay que esperar que los legisladores y reguladores lo vayan a hacer mejor que trabajadores, empresarios y consumidores

Eso da entrada al Estado. Pero sus representantes tampoco son de fiar, porque muchas veces persiguen intereses privados y sufren los mismos sesgos que los demás. No hay que esperar, pues, que los legisladores y reguladores lo vayan a hacer mejor que los trabajadores, empresarios y consumidores. Lo que hay que conseguir es que los políticos vigilen que los que toman decisiones no creen incentivos perversos, que producen resultados ineficientes e injustos. La gente, dice Tirole, suele reaccionar a los incentivos; si estos son malos, las decisiones serán incorrectas.
Por ejemplo, una empresa grande tratará de bloquear la entrada a nuevos competidores; un sindicato poderoso tratará de proteger a sus trabajadores, a costa, por ejemplo, de los que acaban de llegar al mercado laboral o de los que están en el desempleo, y un partido político tratará de proteger a los que le dan financiación, aunque a sea a costa del interés de todos los ciudadanos.

Supuestos, soluciones y argumentos

Tirole comenta un amplio listado de temas de actualidad, desde el cambio climático hasta el proteccionismo comercial, desde la gestión de las plataformas digitales hasta el alto desempleo que hay en Francia (¡qué diría del que tenemos en España!), desde las burbujas especulativas hasta la regulación de las instituciones financieras. El lector encontrará buenas discusiones de los supuestos, las posibles soluciones y, especialmente, de los argumentos que solemos dar los economistas para entender las consecuencias, casi siempre negativas a un plazo no tan largo, que tienen las “geniales” soluciones que se les ocurren a otros economistas poco cuidadosos, sobre todo si trabajan para políticos poco responsables.
El lector no tiene por qué estar de acuerdo con todas las propuestas de Tirole. Por ejemplo, me parece que su concepto de “bien común” es demasiado limitado, porque no quiere hurgar en las entrañas del proceso de toma de decisiones que analizamos los economistas. Su ética es la de tener en cuenta los intereses de todos, algo necesario, pero incompleto. Pero, a pesar de todo, me parece que vale la pena que hagamos todos, los economistas primero, los políticos después, y los ciudadanos al final, un ejercicio de reflexión y diálogo sobre nuestros problemas. La economía del bien común puede ser especialmente útil en nuestras universidades, en las que lo políticamente correcto o lo que es aceptable para ciertas opciones ideológicas puede suponer un freno a la hora de hacer buena economía. 

 

https://www.elperiodico.com/es/opinion/20180531/articulo-opinion-antonio-argandona-leccion-buena-economia-jean-tirole-6849935 

Jueves, 31/05/2018

dilluns, 9 d’abril de 2018

Plan millonario para fomentar el empleo y la economía en Horta-Guinardó

Plan millonario para fomentar el empleo y la economía en Horta-Guinardó

 

  • El Ayuntamiento creará un espacio de cotrabajo de 360 metros cuadrados con retorno social en La Clota

El Ayuntamiento de Barcelona destinará 1,25 millones de euros anuales al Plan de Desarrollo Económico (PDE) del distrito de Horta-Guinardó 2018-2022, que recoge 33 medidas para fomentar la actividad económica sostenible, el empleo de calidad y dinamizar el tejido comercial de la zona.
En una rueda de prensa este martes, el primer teniente de alcalde de Barcelona, Gerardo Pisarello, ha asegurado que la ciudad no puede desaprovechar el talento del distrito, y ha recordado que la zona es pionera en implementar los criterios del Balance de la Economía del Bien Común en su gestión.
El objetivo es potenciar aquellas actividades económicas arraigadas al territorio y al servicio de las personas que viven y trabajan en él, así como fomentar y acompañar a iniciativas económicas existentes y a aquellas que se quieran desarrollar, a en una hoja de ruta liderada por Barcelona Activa y el distrito.
El plan prevé ampliar los recursos de orientación laboral y programas ocupacionales con nuevas actividades en Ca N'Andalet y en el Mas Guinardó, y la concejal de Horta-Guinardó, Mercedes Vidal, ha destacado que el paro de larga duración tiene una especial incidencia en el distrito.
"Un 40% de las personas hace más de un año que están fuera del mercado laboral, mientras que la media de la ciudad se sitúa en un 35,48%", y Vidal ha destacado que el consistorio prevé atender a más de 3.000 personas en paro a través de la oferta de formación y asesoramiento que se ha puesto en marcha.
El Ayuntamiento también trabaja en un nuevo protocolo de empleo en Horta-Guinardó, a replicar en toda la ciudad, para que Barcelona Activa pueda proponer candidatos que vivan en el distrito ante ofertas laborales de las empresas del mismo territorio.
Nuevo espacio de cotrabajo municipal, a principios de 2019
A principios de 2019, el consistorio abrirá en el mismo distrito un nuevo espacio de cotrabajo en el barrio de La Clota, en la avenida del Estatut, de unos 360 metros cuadrados -actualmente en desuso- para emprendedores con proyectos que apoyen a iniciativas y entidades de la zona.
El espacio tiene dos objetivos: impulsar la actividad económica de un distrito mayoritariamente residencial y que representa un 5,9% de la superficie de la ciudad destinada al tejido empresarial, y recuperar locales vacíos como activos del barrio, y que son propiedad del Patronato de Vivienda.
El proyecto contará con espacios de oficina, una cocina equipada y dos talleres compartidos y colaborativos para realizar actividades manuales, artesanales y oficios como diseño de moda, educación en robótica o impresión 3D, reparación de bicicletas o arte plástica.
En este sentido, se busca generar espacios de cotrabajo dirigidos a profesiones y perfiles sociolaborales distintos, en un espacio que acogerá unas sesenta personas y que iniciará las obras de adecuación en septiembre con una inversión de 350.000 euros.
El Gobierno municipal apoyo en 2017 a 13 proyectos promovidos por entidades del distrito con 132.480 euros a través de nuevas subvenciones para la actividad económica como 'Impulsem el que fas' y la subvención específica de Economía Social y Solidaria (ESS).

  •  
  • http://www.lavanguardia.com/local/barcelona/20180403/442157533154/barcelona-destinara-125-millones-anuales-para-fomentar-el-empleo-y-economia-en-horta-guinardo.html


 



dissabte, 17 de març de 2018

Economics for the Common Good J.T.


Economics for good

"Para los no iniciados que tengan un interés genuino en lo que es la Economía, qué hacen los economistas y cómo pueden contribuir (y contribuyen) a la formulación de políticas económicas que mejoran el bienestar social, recomiendo “La Economía del bien común” de Jean Tirole" Juan Francisco Jimeno Doctor en Economía por MIT, 1990


Jean Tirole’s book Economics for the Common Good is out now and is highly recommended. As I had the privilege of helping prepare the English edition, I’ve read it with careful attention, and most appreciated Tirole’s ability to crystallise complicated issues in a straightforward way, combining surgical analysis with very clear explanation. This is too rare a skill among economists.
The first part of the book concerns the influence of economics and economists on society and the role of the market, followed by a section on what doing (good) economics involves, and also how economics is changing. There are then two chapters on organisation, the first on the relationship between state and market, the second on the role of business. These sections are in the same spirit as Dani Rodrik’s Economics Rules, although their experiences and examples differ. Here in Economics for the Common Good is an economist at the pinnacle of the profession (Tirole won the 2014 Nobel prize) giving a thoughtful, reflective account of what economics can properly contribute to – well, the common good. Although much of his work is highly technical, he has always been concerned with its application to practical challenges in organising society: “Academics must ..collectively aim to make the world a better place; consequently, they cannot refuse, as a matter of principle, to take some interest in public affairs.” If an economist has appropriate professional competence in some area, she has an obligation to take a position on it – while acknowledging that what is known changes and re-evaluation may always be necessary.

The final two sections of the book turn to applications of economics, big macroeconomic questions such as financial market stability or tackling climate change, and then applied microeconomic issues such as competition policy, digital platforms, intellectual property and the regulation of network industries. Given my own interests, this final section was riveting. No other individual economist has done more than Tirole to take forward the economic analysis of these kinds of areas, incorporating issues of asymmetric information, principal-agent problems, incentive compatibility, and so on. The final chapter, on sector regulation, is a must-read for anyone interested in this area. (I drew on it in a recent FT column.)

The book is non-technical, aimed at the general reader, and packed with examples. It does in parts require a careful read, but each sections and chapters stands being read alone, so one can dip into the book. There’s a nice publisher blog post in which Tirole explains his motivation for writing the book and what he hopes it can achieve.

It ends with an epilogue reflecting on the status of technical knowledge in a time of populism (the French edition was published early enoug in 2016 that it feels like a different era), and the even greater responsibility economists have to engage and communicate – “Economists must … with humility and conviction, harness economics for the common good.”

  • http://www.enlightenmenteconomics.com/blog/index.php/2017/10/economics-for-good/

Jean Tirole on Economics for the Common Good

When Jean Tirole won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics, he suddenly found himself being stopped in the street by complete strangers and asked to comment on issues of the day, no matter how distant from his own areas of research. His transformation from academic economist to public intellectual prompted him to reflect further on the role economists and their discipline play in society. The result is Economics for the Common Good, a passionate manifesto for a world in which economics, far from being a “dismal science,” is a positive force for the common good.

What inspired you to write this book, and what did you learn in the process?
I wanted to show how economics can open a window to the world. I have long taken part in policymaking, conversing with private and public decision-makers, but as yet I had never engaged with the wider public.  After receiving the Nobel Prize I was regularly asked by people I met in the street or as I gave talks to explain to a broader audience the nature of economic research and what it contributes to our well-being. Not as a commentator on each and every topic, but simply to share with the public how scientific knowledge can guide economic policies and help us understand the world we (will) live in. I tried to write a book that is intelligible for any intellectually curious reader even with no or slight knowledge of economics. The book is divided into 17 stand-alone chapters so the reader can pick and choose.

Can you talk a bit about the value of making economic ideas comprehensible to a general audience?
Repeatedly blaming politicians for flawed policies won’t get us very far. Like us all, they respond to the incentives they face, in their case the hope of being (re)elected. Very rarely do they go against majoritarian public opinion. So we, citizens, get the policies we deserve. And as I explain in the book, our understanding of economic phenomena is obfuscated by various cognitive biases; we are dependent on rules of thumb and narratives, and we often believe what we want to believe, see what we want to see. Economics acts as a deciphering key, although it of course has its own shortcomings
.
In the book you talk about economics for the common good. What exactly is “the common good?”
Economics for the Common Good is an ambition: to help our institutions serve general interest by studying those situations in which individual motives conflict with the interests of society, in order to suggest policies that align social and private interests. The invisible and the visible hands—the market and the State—are mutually complementary; to function well a market economy needs an efficient State to correct its failures. But sometimes the State does not work for the Common Good; for example, many countries are leaving their children substantial levels of unfunded public debt, unemployment, a degraded educational system, inequality, and a lack of preparation for the digital upheaval that our societies are on the brink of encountering. And the world does little to contain climate change. The book therefore pays particular attention to what is going wrong with governments and how this can be remedied to promote the Common Good.

Why do economists have a reputation as “scaremongers?”
I have already mentioned our cognitive biases. Economics is accessible, but can be counterintuitive if one stops at first impressions. Accordingly, and as I illustrate in the book though housing, labor market, climate and other public policies, the road to economic hell is often paved with good intentions. Public policies—the reflection of the electorate’s beliefs—too often ignore side effects. Contrary to general opinion, these side effects are usually borne by third parties rather than the beneficiaries of the policies. Economists, when pointing to the indirect harm on mostly invisible victims (e.g. those who don’t find a job or decent housing, or the taxpayers), are often accused of lacking empathy for the intended and very visible beneficiaries.
Economists may also be the bearers of bad news; while the classical economics representation of a society of purely self-interested individuals is a mediocre description of reality (the book details how morality is privately and socially constructed), when economists mention the need for incentives they trigger anxiety and resistance; we would all rather live in a world of honest, hardworking and empathic citizens. To my mind, the whole point of economics is to design policies and institutions that work towards reaching this different world, where individuals spontaneously operate for the Common Good.

Economics has come under sharp attack, especially since the 2008 financial crisis. Is it a science?
Economists’ judgment may be impaired by financial conflicts of interest, political friendships, or ambitions to be a publicly recognized intellectual. But we must also be humble and accept that as a science, economics is an inexact one. Like any science, it is built on to-and-fro between theory, which provides a lens to the world and allows us to understand observations and describe their implications, and empirical work, which measures the importance of effects and helps question the theory: lab experiments need fieldwork, econometrics, big data. But our knowledge is imperfect; good data may be unavailable, theories may oversimplify, and behavioral patterns and self-fulfilling phenomena (such as bank runs or bubbles) may complicate the analysis. Overall, an economist will generally feel more comfortable analyzing past events and proposing future policies rather than forecasting. A characteristic that is incidentally shared by doctors and seismologists, who detect environments that are conducive to a heart attack or an earthquake and provide useful recommendations, and at the same time may be hard-pressed to predict the exact timing of the event or even whether the latter will occur at all.

Tirole 

Jean Tirole, the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics, has been described as one of the most influential economists of our time. He is chairman of the Toulouse School of Economics and of the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse and a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His many books include The Theory of Corporate Finance and Financial Crises, Liquidity, and the International Monetary System.