Syndicate content

January 2014

Completely Booked Out in Astana

Shynar Jetpissova's picture

If you love books as much as I do, perhaps you too cherish the sensation of holding a new book in your hands for the first time. Or the way your nose twitches when dust lifts off the pages of an old paperback you just discovered on a bookstore shelf. Books are real treasures – they appeal to many different senses and can create memories that stay with us from childhood.
 
Today, more and more books take a very different form to when I was a kid. The Internet now provides us access to a vast electronic library where billions of books are available digitally rather than in the old-fashioned paper form. But there are many of us who still prefer the real thing. With this in mind, my colleagues and I at the World Bank office in Astana, Kazakhstan, held a book donation on the threshold of the New Year at the National Academic Library - one of the four depositary libraries in different regions of Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Pavlodar) back in 2005 as an effective channel for sharing of knowledge and information.


 
For the event, we brought a ton of World Bank publications from the country office, inviting people to walk in and take any books that appealed to them. It took just one hour to clear the shelves! As people selected multiple books from the shelves, I asked, “Are you really going to read all of those books?” Their responses surprised me pleasantly.

Smuggling Adds to Tunisia's Budget Woes

Gael Raballand's picture

The political situation in Tunisia is still volatile, as protests and riots continue to break out across the country. Source- Arne Hoel, World BankRiots broke out across Tunisia last weekend, as citizens reacted to the government’s latest efforts to trim its budget deficit. Officials are struggling to cut spending and increase revenues, all while responding to the demands of a citizenry increasingly dissatisfied with high unemployment and continued inflation.

The economy grew by close to 3 percent last year, but it has not been enough to create new jobs. Making matters worse, many manufacturers and business owners have been forced to lay off workers in response, they say, to a rise in informal trade and “unfair competition”.

A big issue for the business community, informal trade has been equally as troublesome for the cash-strapped transitional government. According to recent World Bank research, the Tunisian government is losing a significant amount of public revenues-- duties, value-added tax and other taxes-- from informal trade along the Libyan and Algerian borders.
 

Obesity, Diabetes, Cancer: Welcome to a New Generation of 'Development Issues'

Duncan Green's picture

I failed miserably to stop myself browsing my various feeds over the Christmas break (New Year’s resolution: ‘browse less, produce more’ – destined for failure). One theme that emerged was the rise of the ‘North in the South’ on health – what I call Cinderella Issues. Things like road traffic accidents, the illegal drug trade, smoking or alcohol that do huge (and growing) damage in developing countries, but are relegated to the margins of the development debate. If my New Year reading is anything to go by, that won’t last for long.

ODI kicked off with Future Diets, an excellent report on obesity by Sharada Keats and Steve Wiggins. Its top killer fact was that the number ofobese/overweight people in developing countries (904 million) has more than tripled since 1980 and has now overtaken the number of malnourished (842 million, according to the FAO).
 

PISA 2012: Central Europe and the Baltics are Catching Up – but Fast Enough?

Christian Bodewig's picture

9th Grade student Shahnoza School. Tajikistan When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched the results from the most recent assessment of mathematics, reading, and science competencies of 15 year-olds (the Program for international Student Assessment, PISA) last December, it held encouraging news for the European Union’s newest members. Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic scored above the OECD average and ahead of many richer European Union neighbors. Compared to previous assessments, the 2012 scores of most countries in Central Europe and the Baltics were up (as they were in Turkey, as Wiseman et al highlighted in this blog recently). Improvements were particularly marked in Bulgaria and Romania, traditionally the weakest PISA achievers in the EU, as well as well-performing Poland and Estonia. Only Slovakia and Hungary saw declines (see chart with PISA mathematics scores).

Collier’s Exodus: Reckless Recommendations

Dilip Ratha's picture

Migration is a defining issue for global development. Not surprisingly, managing immigration remains among the most difficult policy challenges of our times. Paul Collier’s Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World begins to develop an analytical framework for thinking about this complex phenomenon: Migration is driven by income gaps between origin and destination countries; diaspora networks facilitate new immigration, and beyond a point, the diasporas undermine mutual trust among the taxpaying indigenes. Migration enables migrants to escape poverty and hardship, but it also drains sending countries, especially small ones, of skills. Given the global income gaps and the pull of large diasporas, migration will escalate and in the end empty out some sending countries. Receiving countries are therefore advised to limit immigration to the “happy medium” range, for the preservation of the welfare state and continued existence of the sending countries.

This highly readable book would have been commendable except for its unexpected and extreme conclusions that stretch evidence. In the end it further confuses facts to polarize views and adds to, instead of subtracting from, the complex challenges of managing migration.

A ‘Losing Prospect’ Argument for Changing Sanitation Behaviour

Nidhi Khurana's picture

Sabrina Haque/World BankFact #1: One in six people still defecate in the open. 
Fact #2: Most of them are not entirely convinced that a toilet does any good.
Fact #3: Many of the recent toilet adopters still like to go in the open.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but these signal a need for a shift in thinking about the complex problem of addressing behaviour change with respect to toilet adoption.

Transforming Transportation for More Inclusive, Prosperous Cities

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | 中文

 UNFCCC/FlickrLeaders in the transport, development, and for the first time, business sectors will convene for Transforming Transportation this week in Washington, DC.

Cities are the world’s engines of economic growth. Yet many have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring safe and affordable access to jobs, education, and healthcare for its citizens—in part because their transport systems are inadequate and unsustainable. This weakness is visible in packed slums and painful commutes in cities that fail to provide affordable transport options.

Inadequate transport comes with other costs related to air quality and safety. Beijing, China, battles dangerous levels of air pollution due in large part to motor vehicle emissions. Major Indian metropolises like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai are growing out instead of up, contributing to increased travel distances and an estimated 550 deaths every day from traffic accidents. And across the globe, cities are the locus of up to 70 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions driving climate change.

Poor transport systems not only hinder the public health and economic growth of cities, they can spur civil unrest. More than 100,000 protestors, for example, gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on one night in June 2013 to express a wide range of grievances, including transportation fare hikes, poor public services despite a high tax burden, and other urban issues.

But in these challenges lie significant opportunities – particularly for the business and transport sectors at the city level.

How Can Finance Influence Productivity of Agricultural Firms?

Claudia Ruiz's picture

Worldwide, agriculture is the main source of income among the rural poor. Relative to other sectors, agricultural growth can reduce rural poverty rates faster and more effectively (Christiaensen and others 2011). As discussed in the GFDR 2014, one relevant vehicle to achieve growth in the sector may be finance.

Farmers’ decisions to invest and to produce are closely influenced by access to financial instruments. If appropriate risk mitigation products are lacking, or if available financial instruments do not match farmers’ needs, farmers may be discouraged to adopt better technologies, to purchase agricultural inputs, or to make other decisions that can improve the efficiency of their businesses. Improving access to finance can increase farmers’ investment choices and provide them with more effective tools to manage risks (Karlan and others 2012a, Cai and others 2009).


Pages