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How has our rising palm oil consumption affected the communities where it comes from? Guest post by Ryan Edwards

This is the seventh in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
The tripling of area planted with tropical oil crops since the 1990s represents the largest transformation of global food and agricultural systems since the Green Revolution. The area planted for oil crops since the 1970s has expanded by over 150 million hectares, three times that of all cereal crops in the same period (Byerlee, Falcon, and Naylor, 2016). Tropical oil crops feature in most agricultural and food policy debates: genetically modified organisms, food versus biofuels, small farmers versus agribusiness, mono- versus inter-cropping, land grabs, and the environmental footprint of food consumption. The most prominent debates concern clearing forests across the tropics to plant oil crops, particularly oil palm, and the haze that regularly blankets Southeast Asia. Palm oil is the world’s most consumed vegetable oil—ubiquitous in everyday products from food and drink to soap and cosmetics—and one of the world’s most socially contested industries.

World Bank published latest commodity prices: December 2016

John Baffes's picture
In November 2016, energy prices decreased by 6.7%, and the prices of non-energy commodities increased by 3.3%. Food prices went up by 0.3% while beverages went down by 0.9%. Raw materials and fertilizers increased by 1.4% and 2.1%, respectively. Metals and minerals went up by 11.5%, and precious metals went down by 2.1%.

To access recent and long-term historical prices and other commodity-related information, please click here.
 

For the differently abled by a differently abled – an inspiration from Tamil Nadu, India

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Mr. Kannan, a differently abled social entrepreneur
Mr. Kannan, a differently abled social
entrepreneur. (Photo: Varalakshmi Vemuru)
During my recent mission visit to Sivagangai District in Tamil Nadu, India, I met with Mr. Kannan, a social entrepreneur. I was visiting communities to understand the latest efforts under the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (TNEPRP) to support the differently abled with economic activities following their identification and mobilization. For six months now, Mr. Kannan is running a Community Skills School (CSS), an innovative approach to skills enhancement, in the Kalaikulam Village. At the school, which provides self-identified and motivated trainees with skills to repair home appliances, Mr. Kannan has already trained 70 differently abled men and three women. Among the trainees is his wife, who is differently abled herself, but is of huge support to Mr. Kannan in running the CSS and in working with women. He has an agreement with TNEPRP to train a total of 180 differently abled, including a planned group of 30 women.


He has an agreement with TNEPRP to train a total of 180 differently abled, including a planned group of 30 women. Run on a guild program model, the CSS ensures that upon completion of a one-month program on skills enhancement, the trainees can become self-employed or work in small enterprises repairing home appliances in their own and neighboring villages. The rapid urbanization of rural Tamil Nadu offers plenty of such opportunities.

Mr. Kannan designed the key aspect of the curriculum—which goes beyond technical training—based on his own life experiences. During our conversation, I found out that Mr. Kannan is differently abled himself—he was afflicted with polio at the age of three and has lost the use of both his lower limbs. As a result, Mr. Kannan needed a wheelchair to get around. Nevertheless, he was not deterred and continued his education to receive a diploma in mechanical engineering from a local Polytechnic. He ended up at Samsung’s service center in Chennai, the state capital, where he spent four years acquiring skills in home appliance repair. 
 

Disabled and Forcibly Displaced

Omer Karasapan's picture
Volunteers carry disabled refugee - Nicolas Economou | Shutterstock.com

In February of this year the Syrian Center for Policy Research issued a report stating that 470,000 Syrians had been killed in the war and 1.9 million wounded. That was 10 months ago and with the intensification of the siege and bombardment of Aleppo and ongoing fighting elsewhere in the country, one can only guess at the current toll. What is clear is that each day of fighting adds to the burden that Syria will have to carry for generations to come, not only in terms of the ever mounting physical destruction but also in caring for the growing daily toll of the physically or mentally disabled that the war produces. All this at a time when half the population--nearly 5 million refugees and 6.6 million Internally Displaced Person (IDPs)--have been torn from their homes; and the country’s medical system is in tatters.

Weekly links December 2: Jane Austin does public works, unpopular truths about informal health care in India, Facebook does maps, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

When good transport alone doesn’t bring jobs closer to women: insights from Mexico City

Karla Dominguez Gonzalez's picture
An affordable, safe, and good-quality transport system brings social and economic value to everyone, and is key to increasing access to services and opportunities. But is it enough to bring women closer to jobs?

A World Bank study in Argentina highlighted that women “have more complex travel patterns, travel more, and have more travel needs at off-peak hours, which are often not related to work and associated with fixed destinations (e.g. child care).” As a result, they are constrained to smaller commutes and, by association, fewer employment opportunities. In addition to using public transport at different times, frequencies, and for alternate purposes, data from other countries also indicates that many women face significant security challenges when using public transport.

To dig deeper on this and identify what kind of complementary interventions could help ensure mass transit investments bring women the best accessibility benefits, we conducted preliminary research in Mexico City with support from the World Bank Youth Innovation Fund.

Our primary objective was to figure out what encourages or inhibits women’s use of mass transit systems, and to understand how these systems influence their decisions to find employment or better employment.

7 million prices and counting: what’s next for PPPs and the ICP?

Haishan Fu's picture
First meeting of ICP Governing Board

This month’s meeting of the International Comparison Program (ICP) Governing Board marked a new chapter in one of the world’s most far-reaching statistical operations. The release of the 2011 ICP round results in 2014 was met with some disagreement among scholars, but a dominant view emerged that they represent an improvement over the 2005 round. The release triggered a revision of the international poverty line which was updated from $1.25 / day in 2005 PPPs to $1.90 / day in 2011 PPPs. The IMF also uses the resulting PPPs in its Quota subscription allocation, as does the UNDP in the calculation of the Human Development Report’s Human Development Index (HDI), and a number of the SDGs involve PPPs in their measurement.

The ICP estimates purchasing power parities, or PPPs, for use as currency converters to compare the size and price levels of economies around the world. PPP-based measures are critical for assessing the real living conditions of individuals in different countries, and for establishing a common yardstick for measuring progress. Just as important as what it does is how it does it - the ICP is a partnership, and a great example of how working together can yield great benefits to all stakeholders.

The Global ICP Unit - part of the official statistical architecture

The World Bank is now home to the permanent Global ICP Unit, which has this year been instituted as a formal part of the global statistical program by the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC). This development puts the ICP on a stable long-term footing and is a testimony to the ICP’s collective efforts to ensure the success and continuity of the program.

Since its establishment in 1968, the ICP has grown to cover all regions of the world and become the world’s largest statistical initiative. The 2011 round of the ICP covered 199 economies from eight regions with the help of 15 regional and international partners.

What is this thing called ‘populism’? : Jan-Werner Müller hoes the weeds

Sina Odugbemi's picture

One of the most astounding features of public debate and discussion is how many times this occurs: a word acquires wide currency, even notoriety, yet its boundaries remain limitless and, very often, nobody really knows what it means. Because of current events around the world, right now the best example of such a word is “populism”. For instance, I read a special section in Foreign Affairs recently titled ‘The Power of Populism’ and after reading several of the essays I still could not make out the precise  meaning of the concept. Right now, what seems clear is that being called a ‘populist’ is not a good thing. It suggests that you are somehow a demagogue, and that you have something to do with getting large numbers of people worked up, and that you are generally up to no good.

In search of conceptual clarity, I recently acquired and read a new book by Jan-Werner Müller, a professor of politics at Princeton University. The book is titled simply: What is Populism? (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). It is a short, lucid, and exceedingly intelligent book.  Müller starts the book by demonstrating the ‘conceptual chaos’ around ‘populism’. The concept, he shows, is deployed fairly carelessly. It is a contested concept. He goes on to demolish what he calls definitional dead ends, that is, suggestions in public debate and discussion that populism means one or all of the following things:
  • A particular psychological cast (you can fill in the terms of abuse you have heard!);
  • A particular class of citizens (like those famous non-college educated voters!);
  • A particular set of daft or simplistic policies; or
  • A particular style of politics (boorishness, incivility or the famous paranoid style etc.).

Time to be efficient: HIV/AIDS in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region

Fernando Lavadenz's picture


Key achievements and prospective issues

LAC concentrates only 2.3%of the total worldwide HIV/AIDS burden, landing in fourth place after Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific. From 2000 to 2013, LAC had the second-highest decreasing rate on HIV/AIDS burden worldwide (42 %). At the end of 2015, roughly 1.6m people were living with HIV in a region with more than 500m people (discounting USA and Canada). The same year, Cuba became the first country in the world to receive validation from WHO for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, with another five LAC countries close to achieving the same goal; this was one important step towards having an AIDS-free generation worldwide.

The early introduction of universal access to treatment initiated by Brazil and Argentina, massive social mobilization, new legal regulations, and efforts to control vertical transmission, stigma and discrimination converted the region in a leader in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

HIV program expenditure in LAC, annually is around three billion USD. While substantial, it is under 1% of LAC’s total health expenditure. In the context of less external financing support in future and the need to improve efficiencies, LAC decided to undertake a series of 12 studies within eight countries.
 

Can mobile money increase investment by businesses?

Asif Islam's picture

Investment is one of the pillars of private sector development. The acquisition of assets enables firms to increase their capacity and improve their efficiency, unlocking avenues of growth. Promoting firms’ growth is especially critical in Sub-Saharan African countries that have predominantly low levels of economic development and high rates of poverty. Against this backdrop, there has been a rapid increase in mobile money use - that is the use of mobile phones for financial transfers. At the end of 2015, mobile money services were available in 93 countries -with a total of over 411 million registered accounts and 134 million active users (GSMA, 2015). Many of these users are firms that increasingly rely on mobile money to pay bills, suppliers, and salaries or to receive payments from customers. While numerous advantages of the permeation of mobile money has been explored,  including lower transaction costs, little research has been done to investigate the far-reaching benefits that lowering transaction costs could entail, such as increasing firm investment. To fill this void, we recently completed a study on the effect of mobile money use on firm investment in three countries – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.


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