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January 2011

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

OpenAid
This is how aid transparency could look like

"People who argue for more transparency in development cooperation are often eager to point out all the merits of transparency. Unfortunately, often we are not very sure whether our claims are well founded. Even worse, there are very few examples who can illustrate how exactly, "more transparency" could look like. The International Aid Transparency Initiative which will be implemented by the first donors in 2011 is a concrete example of governmental and multilateral donors representing a large percentage of global ODA making aid information available and accessible.

Also, in non-governmental development cooperations efforts are underway to increase accountability and transparency. The UK-based NGO OneWorldTrust even created a website to map over 300 NGO accountability initiatives around the world. But there are few concrete examples of making the information about work of more than one NGO transparent and easily accessible."

Racing to the Top at Economic Students Meet

Joe Qian's picture

An unmistakable sense of achievement and enthusiasm emanated through the halls of the 7th South Asia Economics Student Meet held in Colombo, Sri Lanka last month. The theme of Economic Freedom and Poverty Reduction in South Asia brought together 192 of the top economics undergraduates from universities throughout the region to showcase their economic knowledge and talent.

Demonstrating superior knowledge, creativity, and critical thinking skills; the participants exchanged ingenious ideas in exploring creative solutions to regional economic challenges while making new friendships to pave the way for greater mutual learning as emerging leaders and future policy makers.

Students from universities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka participated in the 3-day conference focusing on economic freedom. As Professor Bishwambher Pyakuryal from Tribhuvan University in Nepal noted, “countries with higher degrees of economic freedom also tend to have higher incomes and levels of development.”

Will China and the US be partners or rivals in the new energy economy?

Daniel Kammen's picture

When Chinese president Hu Jintao visited the US this month, many issues made headlines, but one that didn’t is nonetheless important: clean energy cooperation, competition, or both. This issue is a litmus test for the two superpowers’ ability to build a partnership based on mutual needs and opportunities. The outcome will affect our global economic, environmental and geopolitical future, and may influence the range of clean energy opportunities for emerging economies in fundamental ways.

 

Cooperation does exist between the US and China, with longstanding joint work on energy efficiency standards, and through a new but underfunded US-China Clean Energy Research Center. But the game has to be raised with higher-profile actions. Far more can be gained globally if a spirit of cooperation permeates the high-level political dialogue. These are not the only two nations to watch, but because they are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and the two largest economies on the planet, signs of a shared vision of the future would mean a great deal.

 

The two countries need each other to build the clean energy economy. China needs energy to grow, and can drive the exponential growth needed to move renewable energy to the center of the global energy system. The US has a nimble and deep research and development system, and serial innovators and entrepreneurs whose Silicon Valley mentality has created wealth many times over. US capital market and enterprise management capacities are huge.

Bank Lending to SMEs: How Much Does Type of Bank Ownership Matter?

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) account for close to 60 percent of global manufacturing employment. So it is no surprise that financing for SMEs has been a subject of great interest to both policymakers and researchers. More important, a number of studies using firm-level survey data have shown that SMEs perceive access to finance and the cost of credit to be greater obstacles than large firms do—and that these factors really do constrain the growth of SMEs.

In recent years a debate has emerged about the nature of bank financing for SMEs: Are small domestic private banks more likely to finance SMEs because they are better suited to engage in “relationship lending,” which requires continual, personalized, direct contact with SMEs in the local community in which they operate? Or can large foreign banks with centralized organizational structures be as effective in lending to SMEs through arm’s-length approaches (such as asset-based lending, factoring, leasing, fixed-asset lending, and credit scoring)? And how well do state-owned banks—for which expanding access to finance is often among their top objectives—serve SMEs?

Growth identification and facilitation – let the debate begin

Célestin Monga's picture
 photo: istockphoto.com

In the famous movie Forrest Gump (1994), which is the story of an innocent man who represents how the world should be, the main character Tom Hanks remembers: “My Mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.’” Development economists working on industrial policy should always keep in mind that motherly wisdom and maintain humility in their random quest for the recipe for economic growth.

In a recent paper on ‘Growth Identification and facilitation: The role of the state in the dynamics of structural change,’ Justin Yifu Lin and I have tried to suggest a rational way of looking at the trial-and-error process that successful economic development always involves. In a new post on his excellent blog ‘Africa Can,’ my colleague Shanta Devarajan welcomes our work but asserts that we gloss over the politics that underlie efforts by governments to guide certain industries toward success.

A Legion of (Wiki)Leaks

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Just read a prescient New Yorker blog post on the sudden proliferation of plans for in-house Wikileaks-style operations at major media outlets. Al Jazeera started this trend with its "Transparency Unit," and the New York Times is now said to be developing something similar. It can't be long before others jump on the bandwagon. Author Raffi Khatchadourian (who authored this New Yorker profile of Julian Assange last year) does a nice job of attempting to map the just-emerging implications of this (possible) trend. Says Khatchadourian: "If the WikiLeaks model were to grow beyond WikiLeaks - much in the way social networking outgrew its earliest online incarnations - and develop more fully within the ambit of conventional media, it is likely that it would change in a way that reflects the different sources of authority that a stateless publisher and a conventional news organization each draw upon."

Getting beyond the “every country is unique” mantra

Brian Levy's picture

Moving away from ‘best practice’ thinking has profound implications for development policy work. The craft of policymaking is not simply about delineating the desirable: it is about finding entry points that are both feasible and value-adding. How is this to be done? After all, practitioners desire more guidance than the simple dictum that the answer is ‘country-specific’.

Liberal Constitutions and Elections Won't Do the Job

Sina Odugbemi's picture

This piece was originally contributed to the Governance for Development Blog.

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The entity often known as ‘the international community’ has a touching faith in standard liberal constitutions and one-person-one-vote elections. Now, while those are outstanding human inventions, it is becoming clearer every day that in plural, deeply divided societies these inventions alone will not lead to settled systems of governance.


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