Sunday, February 10, 2008

Paul Romer on Mauritius

What would be the appropriate recipe for Mauritius?

There are huge numbers of little recipes that all add up to create wealth. To illustrate that point, I use the example of coffee shops in the US where they have three different sizes of coffees that they sell and three different sizes of lids for the respective cups. Then someone came up with the idea that you could design the cups such that one lid fits all the three different cups. That idea saves time at the coffee shops. etc. It�s such little ideas, recipes which add up to help people have the things they like, like hot coffee a little bit more efficiently and at lower cost.

Would you argue that in matters pertaining to economics, it is possible to come up with one-size-fits-all recipes that can trigger wealth creation?

Many of the lessons (regarding wealth creation) are the same in most cases. First, you need to have a market system with private property where people are free to try and make profits or to earn a higher salary; then the government has to help provide education such that, at the end of the day, you come up with well-educated citizens and the market where they can go out and try to make profits for themselves. Those two things together are how you both discover lots of little new ideas and also how you find opportunities to bring in ideas from the rest of the world. So China, India and Mauritius can all benefit a lot right now from finding ideas that already exist in the rest of the world....

In relative terms, to which country should we be benchmarking ourselves?

-- In education, I think you should be benchmarking yourself to the leaders: Singapore, China, Sweden, etc., because that�s the standard you should be aiming for. If you set lower goals for yourself, then that�s all you�ll achieve. The goal should be to have your high school students as well educated as those from Singapore or Sweden. Everybody should get to that level, not just a few.

Are you suggesting that we should try to bring our educational level to that of Stanford, Oxford, etc?

-- There are different stages in this. First, everyone should complete a secondary education, and everyone coming out of secondary education should have good command of literacy, numeracy and science. Then, a large fraction of those students from secondary education should go on to some form of tertiary education, whether it�s a university, a polytechnic, or a school that trains students in computer programming. The point is that a large fraction of your students should be going beyond high school. In the USA, Canada, almost half of the students go beyond high school to the tertiary level. When you look to the future, that�s where you should be aiming as well. People here often say that education is free, but that does not tell you what you want to know: it could be free, but there could be positions for only 10 students, and the rest of the students cannot get education beyond high school.

via Tyler Cowen

Two Africas

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