comprehensive review that covered trends and patterns from a database of 1,120 estimates in 139
countries spanning nearly seven decades.
You’d probably be skeptical if I told you that the Western Balkans – a region that has long suffered from social and ethnic fragmentation – now has a strong opportunity to boost shared prosperity by promoting research, innovation and entrepreneurship. Your views might not even change if I showed you that such idea is validated by preliminary studies linking research and innovation to the performance of firms and countries in the region.
You might be surprised – yet your initial assumption might be unchanged – if I told you about the kind of companies that are starting to build a different economic landscape in the region: firms like UXPassion, Pet Minuta, Strawberry Energy or Teleskin, which are all technology-based startups created by young researchers who became entrepreneurs. Click on this link (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/video/2013/10/22/western-balkans-research-and-development-for-innovation), or on the video embedded below, to meet them and other innovators from the Western Balkans.
Indeed, the transition to a market economy and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia starting in 1991 had a severe impact on the research and innovation sector in the Western Balkans. Research capacity narrowed significantly, and R&D’s links to the productive sector of the economy disappeared. The new industrial structure has naturally a lower propensity to invest in research while the current business environment promises low returns to the enterprise investments in innovation. Efforts to revamp the region's research and innovation sector were most of the time short-lived.
As a result, the performance of the research and innovation sector in the Western Balkans is gloomy. The region’s current investment in R&D are roughly the same amount as the investment by just the second-largest university in the United States. (In 2012, for example, only 38 patents from the region were registered with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office – compared to the average of 27 patents registered by each American university.) At the same time, very little of those investments are efficiently transformed into wealth. For example, for each invention that received a patent, the region spent, on average, three times more in R&D resources than does the United States.
Building on a continuing series of efforts to reform their national innovation systems, in the hope of changing their gloomy prospects, the Western Balkan countries in 2009 committed to develop a joint regional research and innovation strategy. That strategy, developed between 2011 and 2013, was formally endorsed last month by the ministers responsible for science and education from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. The preparation of the strategy, which benefited from technical assistance by the World Bank and from the financial support of the European Commission, involved representatives from the region’s leading universities, research institutes, private sector firms and government agencies. Discussions of the draft proposal were pursued in all seven countries as part of a large outreach exercise.
Happily, improving the lot of fragile states (no matter how they are defined) is an item that keeps racing up the agenda of international development. Sadly, however, when there is so much to repair to be done it is not always clear where to start. Donors bring their own priorities; experts have their own preferences. A new policy brief published by BBC Media Action, the international development arm of the BBC that focuses on improving media systems in developing countries, makes the case for fixing broken media systems in fragile states. Entitled Fragile States: the role of media and communication, the report is the work of James Deane, a well-known expert in the field. The report can be downloaded here.
I believe that the work is an important contribution to the policy debate. In what follows, I offer a quick sense of the argument.
I asked Martha, a Form Four (Grade 12) student at a secondary school in southern Malawi, if she considered herself a role model. Completing her education hasn’t been easy for Martha – being sent home for weeks at a time when her family struggled with school fees, trying to avoid the distractions of boys, and staying on top of challenging coursework are among the challenges she deals with.
A few years ago, West Africa was gripped by the Ebola outbreak. The onset of the virus devastated communities and weakened the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Ebola moved quickly and an immediate response by development partners was badly needed. The governments of the three affected countries requested assistance from UN agencies and the World Bank to lead a coordinated effort to curb the epidemic. The Bank responded by restructuring ongoing health projects to free up resources for the governments to quickly contract UN agencies.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Are Women Really Less Corrupt Than Men?
“Will electing more women to office make governments less corrupt? One new paper suggests in might—but the reason for that is not necessarily encouraging.
Previous research has suggested an association between a politician’s gender and their likelihood to engage in corrupt behavior. A World Bank study from 2001, for instance, found that “one standard deviation increase in [female participation in government] will result in a decline in corruption... of 20 percent of a standard deviation". This perception has been behind some well-publicized campaigns, such as Mexico City’s plan to employ all-female traffic cops in some areas.” READ MORE
This past week, we saw our future in a world of more extreme weather as Super Typhoon Haiyan tore apart homes and cities and thousands of lives across the Philippines.
Scientists have been warning for years that a warming planet will bring increasingly extreme and devastating weather. Scientific certainty has brought climate change over the planning horizon, and the impact is now unfurling before our eyes. This level of damage, with millions of people affected, will become more frequent unless we do something about it – fast.
Negotiators from around the world are here in Warsaw for the UN climate conference to work on drivers that can spur that action on a global scale.
It is not overly complicated. We need to get the prices right, get finance flowing, and work where it matters most. But, each of these will take political will to right-size our collective ambition – for ourselves and for the people of the Philippines and the Pacific Islands and the low-lying coasts of Africa and the Caribbean who are directly in harm’s way.
A New Year traditionally comes with upbeat thoughts. New resolutions will make life better. Past mistakes will not be repeated. And calamities are seldom predicted. These positive thoughts are not always justified, but they provide necessary energy during the first cold months of the year all the same.
At the beginning of 2014 some economic optimism actually seems defensible. Five years after the start of the global financial crisis, Europe is finally exiting their recession, albeit slowly and hesitantly. The U.S. economy is accelerating and so is growth of global production and trade. True, the BRICs are no longer as vibrant as they have been for a long time, but growth in China (a key concern of markets in recent days) is still expected to be three and a half times growth in high income countries.
Given the tradition of New Year’s optimism it is salient that the EBRD starts the New Year on a rather gloomy note with their new Transition Report. The title of this year’s report is "Stuck in transition?." But in the text they change the question mark into a firm exclamation mark, even as the report contains some suggestions of ways to escape the current impasse.
The World Bank Group is searching internally and globally for 18 experienced and driven professionals to help achieve two ambitious goals: reducing the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day to 3% by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40%. These leaders will be crucial to our plan to improve the way we work, so we can deploy the best skills and expertise to our clients everywhere, to help tackle the most difficult development challenges around the world.
Last month, the Bank Group’s member countries endorsed our new strategy which for the first time leverages the combined strength of the WBG institutions and their unique ability to partner with the public and private sectors to deliver development solutions backed by finance, world class knowledge and convening services.
Instrumental to the success of our strategy is the establishment of Global Practices and Cross-Cutting Solution Areas, which will bring all technical staff together, making it possible for us to expand our knowledge and better connect global and local expertise for transformational impact. Our ultimate goal is to deploy the best skills and expertise to our clients at the right time, and become the leading partner for complex development solutions.
We are accepting applications for the Global Practice senior directors who will lead these pools of specialists in the following areas: Agriculture; Education; Energy and Extractives; Environment and Natural Resources; Finance and Markets; Governance; Health, Nutrition, and Population; Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management; Poverty; Social Protection and Labor; Trade and Competitiveness; Transport and Information Technology; Urban, Rural, and Social Development; and Water.
For The Idealist, Nina Munk, a Vanity Fair journo, stalked Jeffrey Sachs for six years, focusing on his controversial Millennium Villages Project (MVP). She interviewed the man, sat in on his meetings with bigwigs, and hung around the Millennium Villages to find out what happened when the Prof’s entourage moved on.
The result is more subtle than a simple hatchet job. She portrays Sachs as a man of almost pathological drive and egotism, which both leads to big successes (massive victories on distribution of free anti-malarial bednets for example) and to a refusal to listen or learn from criticism. He comes across as a kind of uber-campaigner, devoid of doubt, absolutely refusing to take no for an answer, dismissive (often in highly personal terms) of anyone who disagrees with him.
There are some memorable vignettes, captured by Munk’s unblinking observation. Sachs lecturing Uganda’s bored President Museveni about boosting farm yields with free fertilizer, when all the President wants is his cup of tea, concluding (as he leaves) ‘This is not India or China, Professor. There are no markets. There is no network. No rails. No roads. We have no political cohesion.’