Since its inception in 2005, ERSA has been in operation for 5 years. It was therefore useful that the Steering Committee of ERSA instituted an independent external review of the activities, output and operation of the ERSA mechanism. Professor David Hendry, Matthew Stern and Dr. Stephen Yeo constituted the review panel, whose report was presented to a joint sitting of the Steering Committee and Academic Board of ERSA in November 2009. The report was wide ranging and provided a detailed examination of the activities of ERSA to date. It was satisfying that the review provided a positive assessment of the contribution of the ERSA Working Paper Series, Workshops and other mechanisms to the disciple of economics in our region. However what proved particularly useful for the executive of ERSA were a range of suggestions on how the operation, efficiency and impact of ERSA could be improved. I am particularly grateful to both the members of the review team, as well as all those who contributed their time to provide feedback to the reviewers for helping ERSA to improve.
As planned, 2009-2010 saw the foundation of two new Research Groups within the ERSA workshop framework. A group in Economic History, and a second in Public Economics became active during the course of the year, and held their first meetings. Gratifying was the strong response and attendance by members of both the policy and the academic research community for both groups.
For the Working and Policy Paper series, submissions have continued the pattern of 2008-2009, taking the form of a steady flow. The editorial team has continued in its efforts to improve the turnaround time for submitted manuscripts. While the processing time has improved, there remains room for improvement in this regard.
During 2009-2010 the number of published papers has risen from 117 Working Papers, and 14 Policy Papers, to 177 Working Papers, and 16 Policy Papers. Papers continue to reflect a wide coverage of economics, with publications appearing in 17 of the 20 feasible specialization categories that the Journal of Economic Literature recognizes.
Publications in peer reviewed journals arising from the ERSA paper series also continue to increase. During 2009-2010 the number of published papers rose from 50 to 73, of which 39 appeared in international journals, and 34 in South African journals.
The evidence continues to be consistent with the stated objective of ERSA to increase the publications profile of South African economists, and in particular to raise the international profile of Southern African based publications in economics. It was pleasing to observe the panel of independent international assessors commenting on the fact that the ERSA series has become the premier Working Paper series in economics in the region.
During the course of 2009-2010 ERSA hosted a total of 13 workshops. While the majority of these were hosted under the auspices of the Research Groups, 2 workshops reflecting independent research interests were also hosted. Attendance at the workshops continues to be diverse in both demographic terms, and in terms of the number of institutions represented at the workshops. During 2009-2010 individuals from a total of 79 institutions attended ERSA workshops.
Associated with the workshops, ERSA also hosted a range of international visitors, including:
- Stan Hurn: Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
- Alex Ludwig: Mannheim Research Institute
- Hans Logfgren: World Bank
- James Thurlow: IFPRI Washington
- Jonathon Gilham: UK Treasury
- Martine Mariotti: Australian National University
- Nathan Nunn: Harvard University
- Jeremy Magruder: University of California, Berkerly
- Stephen Redding: London School of Economics
- Wilko Bolt: De Nederlandsche Bank
Under the ERSA scholarship scheme, a total of 21 scholarships have been awarded to date. Of these, 17 were for Masters study, 4 for reading toward a PhD. To date, 2 of the Masters scholarship holders, and 1 of the PhD scholarship holders have completed their programme of study.
The wide ranging activities of ERSA inevitably rely on the input of a wide range of individuals. Members of Academic Board have given a large number of days pro bono. The three Deputy Directors similarly have provided substantial input not only into the editorial processes of ERSA, but also sustained substantive direction to the development of the research groups that have come to emerge under the ERSA banner. Crucially, the coordinators of the various research groups that ERSA funds carry a large burden of work in order to ensure that the research groups function effectively and regularly.
Since all of the ERSA activities, including the planning and logistical realization of the working paper series, workshops, international visitors, research group activity, prizes, scholarships and the administration of the day-to-day functioning of ERSA rests with the administrative team led by Gloria Halland, they deserve recognition for their tireless contribution to ERSA, and their admirable attention to detail in the execution of their duties. Without the contributions of all of these individuals ERSA could not function, and my sincere thanks goes to them all.