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Global development and the middle-income trap

On the 27th of May, the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) at the Stockholm School of Economics, the Knowledge for Change Program of the Development Economics Vice Presidency at the World Bank and other partners will host a public knowledge event that will explore critical questions on how middle-income countries can accelerate the process of creative destruction, despite stiffening headwinds caused by economic fragmentation, demographic considerations, and climate change.

Theme for the discussion

The 108 middle-income economies represent approximately three-fourths of the world's population, collectively contribute to nearly 40 percent of global economic activity, and generate over 60 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. Despite advancements in the 1990s, growth in these countries is notably slowing down and they are not on track to catch up with high-income countries any time soon. Where are these economies headed? What are the pathways for emerging market economies to avoid what has been known and feared as the “middle-income trap”? How can they balance the forces of creation, preservation, and destruction to achieve total economic, social, and ecological efficiency?

Introduction: Torbjörn Becker, Director of the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economies and Chair of the Expert Group for Aid Studies.

Keynote Address

Indermit Gill, Senior Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank Group

Before starting this position on September 1, 2022, Gill served as the World Bank’s Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions, where he helped shape the Bank’s response to the extraordinary series of shocks that have hit developing economies since 2020. Between 2016 and 2021, he was a professor of public policy at Duke University and non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development program.

Gill led the World Bank's influential 2009 World Development Report on economic geography. His work includes introducing the concept of the “middle-income trap” to describe how countries stagnate after reaching a certain level of income. He has published extensively on key policy issues facing developing countries—among other things, sovereign debt vulnerabilities, green growth and natural-resource wealth, labor markets, and poverty and inequality.

Gill has also taught at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.


Click "Expand" to see the full list of panelists.

Norman Loayza, Director of the Global Indicators Group, the World Bank

Norman Loayza is Director of the Global Indicators Group at the World Bank. He currently supervises the flagship data and reports, Women, Business and the Law, Enterprise Surveys, Global and Subnational Business Ready, the successor to the discontinued Doing Business. 

Previously, he was a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group and managed the Asia hub of the Research Group, based in Malaysia. He was director of the World Development Report 2014, Risk and Opportunity: Managing Risk for Development. His research has dealt with various areas of economic and social development, including macroeconomic management, economic growth, microeconomic flexibility, private and public saving, financial depth and stability, natural disasters, and crime and violence. His advisory experience at the World Bank has also ranged across different topics in various regions and countries. A few examples include business environment and economic performance in Latin America; informal and formal labor markets in the Middle East and Northern Africa; public infrastructure gaps in Pakistan and Egypt; savings for macroeconomic stability and growth in Sri Lanka, Georgia, and Egypt; and pro-poor growth in Indonesia and Peru. On external service from the World Bank, he was a Senior Economist at the Central Bank of Chile (1999-2000), where he advised on financial and monetary policy.

Elina Scheja, Chief economist, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Elina Scheja is the Chief Economist of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). She leads Sida’s analytical efforts at country level with a goal to improve living conditions for people living in poverty and under oppression. Her current areas of focus are multidimensional poverty analysis, financing for development, and green transition. Ms Scheja serves also as the co-chair of OECD DAC Community of Practice on Poverty and Inequalities.

Prior to joining Sida in her new role, Ms Scheja was working as Senior Specialist in Employment and Poverty Diagnostics at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with a focus on the economic and employment impacts of climate change and Just Transition. Ms Scheja has previous experience working for the World Bank at Development Economics Vice Presidency (DEC) and at Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS). Altogether she has 20 years of experience in development cooperation from various roles including managing projects on productive employment and market development in Rwanda, and working with policy support, inclusive growth and private sector development with bilateral development agencies in Sweden and Finland. Ms Scheja holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Sussex, M.Sc in Economics from Helsinki School of Economics, and M.Sc. in Development Studies from the University of Helsinki, and she has research experience from several international universities and research institutions.

Haishan Fu, Chief Statistician and Director for the Development Data Group of the World Bank

Haishan Fu is Chief Statistician of the World Bank and Director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group. In these capacities, Haishan leads and coordinates the development, standard-setting, and implementation of the World Bank’s development data agenda. This includes oversight of key data public goods, such as the World Development Indicators, the Statistical Performance Indicators, the Living Standards Measurement Study, the International Comparison Program, the Debtor Reporting System, the World Bank’s Development Data HubOpen Data catalogueMicrodata LibraryWITSSpecialized Data Management Services (DataBank), API ServicesSurvey Solutions, the Development Data Partnership, and the World Bank Data Blog. Haishan likewise provides leadership and guidance on operational data and statistics issues at country, regional, and global levels. She serves as Co-Secretary of the World Bank’s data governance architecture, and co-chairs the Bank’s Data for Countries and Global Priorities working group. She oversees the World Bank-hosted Global Data Facility, the World Bank’s trust fund mechanism designed to support data and statistics capacity building, institutional strengthening, and innovations.

Haishan has been an active leader in the global statistical community, having served or currently serving as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on Data Revolution for Sustainable Development; a Council Member of the International Statistical Institute; and Co-Chair of the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities among over 45 UN and other international development agencies, among others. Prior to joining the World Bank in 2014, Haishan was Director of the Statistics Division at UNESCAP, served as the first Chief of Statistics of UNDP’s Human Development Report, and worked as Senior Research Associate at the Guttmacher Institute and Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Haishan holds a Ph.D. in Demography from Princeton University and a B.A. in Economics from Peking University.

Moderator: Mats Hårsmar, Deputy Managing Director, the Expert Group for Aid Studies

Mats Hårsmar is deputy managing director at the Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA). Among other, he has previously been chief analyst for development issues at the Swedish MFA, headed the Swedish embassy in Burkina Faso and also worked as researcher.

Registration & program

The event will take place in the Aula, located in the main building of SSE and the registration opens at 14.15 outside the Aula.

  • Please proceed with your registration via the Trippus platform by clicking the following link (see here).
  • To see the program please click in the following link (see here).

MINGLE OPPORTUNITY: After the event, please join us for a mingle with drinks and a light meal. This will be a wonderful opportunity to network further and discuss the insights shared during the event.

Please contact site@hhs.se if you have any questions regarding the event.

This event is organized by the Knowledge for Change Program of the Development Economics Vice Presidency at the World Bank, in partnership with the Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA), Stockholm Institute of Transition Economies (SITE) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

About the Knowledge for Change Program

The Knowledge for Change Program (KCP) is an Umbrella Program that aims at delivering high-impact, policy-relevant research and knowledge products. Housed in the Development Economics Vice Presidency of the World Bank, the KCP commenced its operation in 2002, and has supported more than 360 projects on research, data, and analytics, with total funding of US$72 million.

Photo: Summit Art Creations, Shutterstock

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