While there is a consensus among researchers and policy makers that the 2008–2009 crisis was triggered by financial market disruptions in the United States, there is little agreement on whether the transmission of the crisis and the subsequent prolonged recession were caused by credit factors or a collapse of demand for goods and services. On the one hand, a credit crunch, defined as a reduction in the ability of firms to get loans or a sudden tightening of the conditions required to obtain a bank loan, squeezes firms’ working capital and hurts their production. On the other hand, adverse demand shocks to firms come from declines in demand for firms’ products and services. Each type of factor has fundamentally different policy implications. If credit factors are found to play the main role, the solution would be to provide more and cheaper credit. But if demand factors are the main drivers, the focus should be on boosting investors’ and consumers’ confidence. Interestingly, most of the effort to understand the impact of the crisis focuses on credit and not on demand.
Since the WDR 2014 launched in early October, members of the WDR team have been travelling to many cities in different countries to present the Report. These trips are colloquially known as the "road show"—a grossly misleading term since travel is mostly by air and the events are more characterized by discussion among professionals than by show-bizz.
I would like to take the time to reflect on what I have been hearing at three very interesting and well-attended events held recently at the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University in Montreal, United Nations in Geneva, and at the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), World Bank, Washington D.C. (full disclosure: I work there now).
- WDR 2014
Violence against women occurs in all regions, religions and social classes and encompasses physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence, with even larger implications for the economic, health and social progress of societies. Yet data on this topic is hard to come by.
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and I wanted to highlight what’s being done to get better data on the subject, and in general, what’s being done to “close the gender data gap.”
The World Bank Group (WBG) is increasing its engagement with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) community as part of its civil society engagement efforts at the global level. This comes as the campaign to reduce descrimination and promote inclusion of the LGBT community gains traction and visibility in the United States and many countries around the world. This interaction began last year when several CSOs reached out to the Global Civil Society Team to suggest introducing the LGBT issue within the WBG - CSO policy dialogue agenda. As a result, the Bank hosted a session on LGBT coalition building during the 2013 Spring Meetings in April, and this was followed by a session on incorporating LGBT issues within Bank social assessments at the Annual Meetings in October. In addition, the Bank sponsored an LGBT leader from Guyana to come to Washington for the week-long Civil Society Program during the Annual Meetings.
The “Coalition Building around LGBT Issues” session held on April 17 was organized by St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and GLOBE which is the association of Bank LGBT staff. (see session summary) The panel was composed of LGBT leaders from the US and Africa who shared their perspectives and personal experiences on fighting discrimination and policy advocacy. Rev. Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Foundation described how homosexuality has been criminalized in 76 countries and the LGBT community is often among the most marginalized in developing countries, and called on the Bank to include the LGBT community in the development programs it finances. The session focused largely on Uganda as several panellists described the conflicting role played by faith-based organizations, some of which provided social services to the LGBT community while others actively propagate homophobia. Victor Mukasa, a transgendered activist, described his compelling and troubling experiences in promoting LGBT inclusion in Uganda which led him to seek political asylum in the United States.
Everyone who travels to Thailand will want to have Chiang Mai on their list. It’s an old city which reflects the lovely northern Thai culture and has a lot of significant history behind it. My wife and I spent our first anniversary there because it’s very nice and peaceful. Chiang Mai is a place where Thais often go to recharge and take advantage of the slower pace of life. I have started recently travelling to Chiang Mai more often for work, but even that is also pleasurable.
Chiang Mai has grown so much, and so fast. We see more and more cars in the city center. The traffic jams are becoming problematic and the public transportation issue remains an unsolved problem. To help, the World Bank is supporting the Chiang Mai Municipality's vision of promoting “green mobility” with help from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It is a small pilot project that supports non-motorized transport, such as walking and bicycling, by improving city center's walk path and bicycle lanes in the city center.
'Strong leaders do not just "read" opportunities; they make them – by moulding public opinion, bringing new blood with new ideas and initiative into government, reaching beyond safe and traditional constituencies to build coalitions in support of change and by taking political and managerial risks that broaden the possibility of change.'
Many countries and education systems around the world are currently engaged in large-scale efforts to introduce huge numbers of computing devices (PCs, laptops, tablets) into schools and into the hands of teachers and students, and many more initiatives are under serious consideration. However one might feel about such projects (in general, or in particular instances), there is no denying that these can be quite complex undertakings, rolling out over many years, in multiple stages, with many interdependent components (related to e.g. infrastructure, content, training, assessment), and costing (tens of, sometimes hundreds of) millions of dollars. When planning such initiatives, there are many questions to be asked, large and small. One question that I don’t find is typically given much serious attention relates to what would, at first glance, probably appear to be a rather simple one, with a simple answer:
Who owns the laptops (tablets) that will be distributed to students (teachers)?
I regularly ask this question as part of my interactions with leaders of various such projects around the world. I find that I rarely get a simple or complete answer. This is potentially problematic, as the responses to this question, and a set of related ones, can have a very profound impact on how such projects function in practice, and thus on their (potential) impact as well.
Here’s one example of why this sort of thing is important:
Half of today’s world population is under 25 years old. The growing share of young men and women globally has not yet reached its peak and will continue to increase over the next two decades. Eradicating poverty will not be possible if the needs of this young cohort are not treated with careful attention. In the coming 10 years, 47 million jobs will be needed - nearly 400,000 jobs per month - in order to absorb the young generation into the workforce. The challenge is too great to be treated with a business-as-usual approach, and no individual stakeholder alone is capable of offering a comprehensive solution.