The World Bank encourages knowledge exchange as a powerful tool to share, replicate, and scale up ideas and practices in development work. The exchange of ideas strengthens the capacity to interpret the experiences and knowledge of others within the context of their own local circumstances, and to draw and adapt those lessons that are locally relevant. One example is a recent water transport knowledge sharing session that included representatives from the World Bank’s transport sectors in South Asia and Latin America, which included participation from the Government of India.
Water transport in India
India has an extensive coastline of 5,400 km and navigable inland waterways of 4,320 km. However, only about 7 percent of domestic cargo movement is conducted through these two modes, of which just 0.5 percent is for inland waterways. In comparison, Japan and some European countries transport approximately 40 percent of their domestic cargo on water.
Although water transport modes are more environmentally friendly, energy efficient and economical than most other modes of transport, not enough has been done to develop them in India. India’s low utilization of water transport modes has contributed to heavily congested roads and railways, which results in disproportionately high logistic costs relative to overall GDP (15 percent). If India’s objective is to revive its trajectory of economic growth and to achieve the new government’s “Make in India” dream, it will be necessary to actively promote coastal shipping and inland water transport.
India’s new government has focused its attention on water transport, and is currently in the process of finalizing a vision and strategy for higher utilization of inland water transport, coastal shipping and ports. Backed by tangible commitments in the current federal budget, numerous schemes are being finalized, including enhanced navigability of National Waterways, creation of a National Waterway Grid, developing the interconnectivity of major ports, and establishing port-centric economic zones through a scheme called SAGARMALA (‘string of pearls’). The World Bank has been approached to provide technical assistance and limited investment support in this National Waterway augmentation initiative.
Most countries in the world measure their poverty using an absolute threshold, or in other words, a fixed standard of what households should be able to count on in order to meet their basic needs. A few countries, however, have chosen to measure their poverty using a relative threshold, that is, a cutoff point in relation to the overall distribution of income or consumption in a country.
The chart above shows the differences between relative and absolute poverty headcount ratios for countries that have measured both. You can select other countries from the drop down list, but for example, you can see that Romania switched from measuring poverty in absolute terms to measuring poverty in relative terms in 2006. Absolute poverty headcount ratios steadily declined from 35.9% in 2000 to 13.8% in 2006. However, by relative measures, the national poverty headcount ratio in 2006 was 24.8%. This does not mean that poverty bumped up in 2006. These two numbers are simply not comparable, but what exactly do they both mean?
If you think the summers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are hot—think again. Summers are likely to become much warmer. Global temperatures are rising; the question now is by how much and what the impact of them will be. People in the region already face very high summer temperatures—and these could get worse. Compared to the rest of the world, the MENA region will suffer disproportionally from extreme heat.
She and leaders of governments, companies and organizations like the World Bank Group were gathered to pledge record amounts of finance and country-level actions to tackle the insidious health and environmental challenges posed by the simple act of cooking.
Growing up in India, I have always been conscious of the daily grind that women and girls in remote, rural areas go through just to prepare one meal. There’s the long, arduous and sometimes dangerous walk to get firewood, sticks or charcoal – whatever one can afford to find or buy. There’s the walk home, loaded down with that fuel. This can take up to five hours in rural areas – time that could be spent at school, work or building a small enterprise. And then of course, there’s the time spent breathing in smoke as they cook an often simple meal of bread, rice, lentils or vegetables. In India alone, more than one million deaths a year are attributed to traditional cooking practices - a shocking figure by any reckoning.
The Doing Development Differently workshop was organised by the Building State Capacity gang at Harvard’s Center for International Development and the Overseas Development Institute; read more about the workshop here. I was unfortunately able to only attend Day 1 and a tiny bit on Day 2 but caught up through all the videos that are online. See Day 1 summary; and Day 2 summary
Here are some thoughts:
- Doing Development Differently (DDD) is the big picture: DDD is about the details and the beauty of innovation and creativity on the ground, but, more importantly, it is about the big picture. As the workshop signalled (at least) to me, the battleground for DDD conspirators/crusaders is the top table, with donors and policymakers, the moneybags, decision-makers and influencers. Expressed in an extremely clichéd way, the goal ought to be to facilitate ‘d’ on the ground by changing the rules of the ‘D’ game. This makes sense to me. Gathering and influencing activists and local champions is a necessary but not sufficient condition for real change. At the same time, this workshop definitely missed a trick by not having participants from governments (I am sure the organizers considered this long and hard), which in many middle- income countries have come to be all of the above actors – the moneybags, the policy/decision-makers, etc. For DDD thinking to go beyond just aid, it is important that governments are included in these conversations.
Euro-area government bonds advanced as investors speculated the European Central Bank (ECB) will expand its asset purchase program to include government securities. Spain’s 10-year yield slid as much as 5 basis points (bps) to reach 1.961%, yielding below 2% for the first time ever. 10-year bond yields in Italy, Ireland, France, and Austria also hit historic lows, extending last week’s decline after ECB President Mario Draghi strongly signaled further stimulus.
In our earlier blogs on corruption we have looked at the causes and consequences of corruption within the process of economic development. In our last blog, Six Strategies to Fight Corruption, we addressed the question of what can be done about it, and discussed the role of economic policies in developing the right sorts of incentives and institutions to reduce its incidence. This blog will provide some thoughts on the moral dimensions of corruption.
As an author of a recent impact evaluation looking at the effects of purely unconditional cash transfers in rural Kenya, and as a co-founder GiveDirectly, the organization that facilitated the cash transfers, I have been paying close attention to the research in this area. Much of it has been highly rigorous, and the evidence suggests that transfers do considerable good: reducing poverty, inequality and allowing poor families to accumulate assets. This is not to say cash transfers are a panacea, but all-in-all cash transfers can meaningfully improve the lives of the poor. So, where do we go from here?
Beyond simply alleviating the poverty of many households, I believe cash transfers can play a transformative role in the aid industry. First, cash transfers can serve as a benchmark for the industry. The idea of using cash transfers as a performance benchmark is not new, but I believe it is limited from a practical standpoint, and more value may come from viewing cash transfers as a preference benchmark. Second, cash transfers are a uniquely low-risk and scalable solution to reducing poverty, which is no small thing in an industry that is prone to search for silver bullets with only a risky chance of truly solving poverty.
"Journalists become reliably useful to governments, corporations, or armed groups only when they betray their calling.”
- George Packer, an American journalist, novelist, and playwright. He is well- known for writing on U.S. foreign policy in the The New Yorker and for his book The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq.
In the world’s richest countries, those with greater inequality in skills proficiency also have higher income inequality, according to the first OECD Survey of Adult Skills (also known as PIAAC), which measures the skills of 16-65 year-olds across 24 countries. The survey includes assessments of adult reading, numeracy, and place in the digital divide. The OECD's Stefano Scarpetta (Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs) tell us that this is the first ever comprehensive survey of the actual competencies of OECD adult workers.