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Macroeconomics and the Environment

Essays on Green Accounting

Salah El Serafy

Though scientists and environmentalists have long expressed concern over the rapid deterioration of the global environment, economists have largely failed to recognize the issue’s relevance to their field. Salah El Serafy argues for an increased focus on the economic aspects of environmental degradation, calling for a fundamental shift in how economists measure and discuss national income.
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Chapter 19: Natural resources in World Bank country economic work and Indonesia’s experience

Essays on Green Accounting

Salah El Serafy


This chapter reproduces in a shortened form a paper I wrote for the Environment Department at the World Bank and published in March 1993 under the title, ‘Country Macroeconomic Work and Natural Resources’. I had just left World Bank service after twenty years of work on macroeconomic matters culminating in a spell at the ‘Country Policy Department’, followed by membership of a coterie of special advisers then named ‘the Economic Advisory Staff’ (EAS). This small unit provided direct contact with the highest echelons of Bank management with access to the President’s Council. Although this paper originally targeted World Bank economists it was released outside the Bank nine months ahead of SNA93. The earlier draft contained two appendices: one outlining my user-cost method, which is here omitted, and another highlighting relevant World Bank Operational Directives, some of which I had helped to draft and may now be considered out of date. My purpose all along has been to counsel Bank economists dealing with assistance strategies, country economic work and macroeconomic analysis to watch out for significant changes occurring in the physical environment since these directly affect the macroeconomic numbers. This paper attracted much attention within the Bank during its preparatory stages, gaining special praise from the then Director General of the Operations Evaluation Department, Robert Picciotto, who subsequently recruited me to head the World Bank’s team which, together with UNEP and UNDP, evaluated the Global Environment Facility, Pilot Phase – publishing its report in 1994.

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