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Why Public Investment?

The world is facing the prospect of an extended period of weak economic growth. But risk is not fate: The best way to avoid such an outcome is to figure out how to channel large pools of savings into productivity-enhancing public-sector investment.

MILAN – The world is facing the prospect of an extended period of weak economic growth. But risk is not fate: The best way to avoid such an outcome is to figure out how to channel large pools of savings into productivity-enhancing public-sector investment.

Productivity gains are vital to long-term growth, because they typically translate into higher incomes, in turn boosting demand. That process takes time, of course – especially if, say, the initial recipients of increased income already have a high savings rate. But, with ample investment in the right areas, productivity growth can be sustained.

The danger lies in debt-fueled investment that shifts future demand to the present, without stimulating productivity growth. This approach inevitably leads to a growth slowdown, possibly even triggering a financial crisis like the one that recently shook the United States and Europe.

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