The brookings panel on Economic Activity held its seventy-third
conference in Washington, D.C., on April 4 and 5, 2002. This issue of
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity includes the papers and discussions
presented at the conference. The first paper investigates the origins
and features of the economic boom in Ireland during the 1990s, including
the country’s rapid employment growth and apparent productivity miracle.
The second paper analyzes changes in male unemployment and labor force
participation in the United States over the last four decades, and, focusing
on the 1990s, shows that declining participation rates, especially for
less-skilled men, clouded their otherwise improving labor market conditions.
The third paper studies the interaction of firms’ investments in information
technology with their investments in intangible assets such as
organizational structure, and the effect of these joint investments on firms’
market value. A report in this issue assesses the recent U.S. recession and
its ongoing recovery, reevaluates the current system for identifying recessions,
and considers the outlook for corporate profits and equities markets.
The issue concludes with a symposium on new international arrangements
for distressed sovereign debtors. The first of the three symposium papers
argues that the problem should be addressed by replacing official lending
to developing countries with aid, forswearing multilateral bailouts of troubled
debtors, and placing jurisdiction over private debt disputes in the
national courts of the debtor. The second calls for broad forgiveness of
the debts of the poorest and most heavily indebted countries in the context
of efforts to achieve recently agreed-upon international development
goals. The third symposium paper evaluates ideas for a new sovereign
bankruptcy arrangement within the threefold broad objectives of bankruptcy
arrangements in general, namely, preventing a destructive race to
seize the debtor’s assets, forestalling creditors from delaying restructuring,
and allowing the debtor to make a fresh start.