Syndicate content

October 2016

Giving voice to the poor: Adding a human touch to poverty data in South Sudan

Utz Pape's picture

We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human. –Hannah Arendt

We all know that measuring poverty is critical to monitor progress and to tailor effective policy response. But what the numbers mask is the pain and suffering that people go through to make ends meet. Let’s take the case of South Sudan. The country has had a very tumultuous time, witnessing more than its share of a few crises between 2015 and 2016. The collapse of a fragile peace accord led to a renewed military confrontation while simultaneously international oil prices dropped, depriving South Sudan of its main source of foreign exchange. This triggered a severe fiscal and economic crisis, leading to sky rocketing prices as documented in our real time market price dashboard. Securing livelihoods has become more and more difficult with 66 percent of the population now living in poverty, a new peak.

The 66 percent number certainly summarizes the country’s poverty level, which is unquestionably useful for comparisons and analyses to inform policies and programs. However, what the number doesn’t reveal is the struggle that families go through daily. To capture this aspect and give a humane feel to an abstract poverty number, we have started collecting short video testimonials from people living in South Sudan as part of the High Frequency Survey:

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Culture gives cities social and economic power, shows UNESCO report
UNESCO

Culture has the power to make cities more prosperous, safer, and sustainable, according to UNESCO’s Global Report, Culture: Urban Future to be launched in Quito (Ecuador) on 18 October. The Global Report presents evidence on how development policies in line with UNESCO’s conventions on the protection and promotion of culture and heritage can benefit cities. Current trends show that urbanization will continue to increase in scale and speed, particularly in Africa and Asia, which are set to be 54 and 64 percent urban by 2050. The world is projected to have 41 mega cities by 2030, each home to at least 10 million people. Massive and rapid urbanization can often exacerbate challenges for cities creating more slums and poor access to public spaces as well as having a negative impact on the environment. This process often leads to a rise in unemployment, social inequality, discrimination and violence.

Sustainable Cities: 3 Ways Cities Can Contribute to a Renewable Energy Future
HuffPost Blog

This week, global policy makers gather in Quito for the Habitat III Conference to reinvigorate the global commitment to the sustainable development of cities. Meeting every 20 years, the Habitat Conference will this year focus on setting a new Urban Agenda. Within this context and for the first time ever, the Conference will also discuss the rapid deployment of renewable energy as a means to achieve a sustainable urban future. This could not be timelier. Dramatic cost declines and technological innovations, present cities with an unprecedented opportunity to transform and decarbonise their energy supply on the basis of a positive economic case - an option that did not exist when the Habitat Conference last convened in 1996. This is great news, considering cities are home to 54% of the global population and generate 70% of global emissions.

Ending poverty in China: The role of knowledge exchange in poverty reduction

Gladys H. Morales's picture
 This blog is part of a series produced to commemorate End Poverty Day (October 17), focusing on China – which has contributed more than any other country to global poverty reduction – and its efforts to end extreme poverty by 2020. Read the blog series here.
 

China has made remarkable progress in poverty reduction by lifting over 700 million people out of poverty in the past three decades. Under sustainable development goal 1, the international community has committed to end poverty in all its forms and everywhere by 2030. An objective that China expects to achieve 10 years earlier of the deadline by lifting the remaining 55 million of extreme poor out of poverty by 2020.
 
On September 19, China released its national plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. During his intervention at the event, Premier Li Keqiang confirmed his country’s willingness to participate in international cooperation to contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, to increase investment in South-South cooperation and to share development experiences and opportunities.
 

The FinTech revolution: A perspective from Asia

José de Luna-Martínez's picture



Will cash and checks still exist 15 or 20 years from now given the increasing digitization of money? Is the smartphone our new bank? Will many people working in the financial sector industry lose their jobs due to growing use of technology, robots, algorithms, and online banking? Is financial technology (FinTech) the solution to providing financial services to the 2 billion people in the planet that still lack access to finance? Will digital currencies and other innovative FinTech products pose systemic risks in the future? What is the best approach to regulate FinTech companies?

Islamic finance in Malaysia: Filling the gaps in financial inclusion

José de Luna-Martínez's picture



In the past decade, the Islamic finance industry has grown at double digits despite the weak global economic environment. By 2020, the Islamic finance industry is projected to reach $3 trillion in total assets with 1 billion users. However, despite its rapid growth and enormous potential, 7 out of 10 adults still do not have access to a bank account in Muslim countries. This means that 682 million adult Muslims still do not have an account at a banking institution. While some Muslim countries have high levels of account ownership (above 90 percent), there are others with less than 5 percent of their adult population who reported having a bank account.

Improving the Odds of Being Formally Financially Included in Senegal

Siegfried Zottel's picture


While most adults in developed countries have an account at a bank or another formal financial institution, this is not the reality in many developing countries, including Senegal. A recent World Bank Group (WBG) Financial Capability Survey revealed that less than one in five Senegalese adults (17%) report owning an account at a formal institution, which includes banks, microfinance institutions, or e-money agents. While Senegal’s financial inclusion levels are similar to those in other lower-middle income economies, the country lags behind the average inclusion rate among Sub-Saharan African economies.

Quantifying uncertainties in global growth forecasts

Franziska Ohnsorge's picture
Figure 1. Risks to Global Growth
Upside risks to global growth have increased since January while downside risks for current-year growth have reached post-crisis highs.

A 90% confidence interval implies a 90% chance of growth falling within the given range
Source: World Bank Global Economic Prospects report June 2016.
Note: “90 percent JAN16” is the 90 percent confidence interval of a fanchart based on data available for the January 2016 Global Economic Prospects report

Assessing economic forecast uncertainty and the balance of risks to the growth outlook is critical to effective policymaking. Lower-probability but high-impact events can lead to significant deviations from baseline projections, and this  should be factored into policy design. The World Bank’s most recent Global Economic Prospects unveiled a tool to quantify uncertainty around global growth forecasts and presented it in the form of a fan charts (Figure 1)

The approach adopted in the Global Economic Prospects report consists of two steps.

First, a number of measurable risk indicators that are typical sources of forecast errors for global growth forecasts are selected. Three were chosen: equity price futures, oil price futures and bond term spreads (the difference between short and long term interest rates). For instance, greater volatility in oil price futures could be associated with rising uncertainty around global growth forecasts, while a downward trend in equity price futures could signal rising downside risks to growth.

Second, the probability distributions of forecasts for these three indicators are then mapped to the distribution of global growth forecasts. Both the degree of uncertainty and the balance of risks to the forecast are approximated by weighted averages of the standard deviation and skewness implied by the distributions of expectations for the risk indicators. The weights are estimated in a vector autoregression model (Ohnsorge, Some, and Stocker 2016). To account for potential asymmetry in the distributions of risks, a two-piece normal distribution is assumed, in line with other studies.

Habitat III: The New Urban Agenda and the role of Multilateral Development Banks

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
In support of the “New Urban Agenda” adopted this week during the UN-sponsored global Habitat III conference, eight Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) — the Asian Development Bank (ADB), African Development Bank (AfDB), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), and the World Bank – are putting the Agenda’s words into action by issuing a “Joint Statement” expressing their commitment to promote equitable, sustainable, and productive urbanization and urban communities. 
 
Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, speaks with Juan Pablo Bonilla, Manager of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Sector for the IADB, on how the organizations will work together to finance the “New Urban Agenda.”

 

The silent ‘change agents’ in government

Syed Akhtar Mahmood's picture

Sometimes, the drive comes from the senior echelons of government – a reform-minded government leader, an important minister or an agency head. At times, there is pressure from donors. Often, the two combine: The initial idea comes from a donor, which a powerful person in government then takes up as an agenda.

Many reforms happen in this top-down way. But, often, there are questions about their sustainability. Commitment to reforms may not be widespread. Once donor pressure wears off, or once the bold reformer at the top moves on (or loses interest or energy), reform initiatives dissipate. Sometimes, the reforms happen on paper, but implementation remains deficient. Top-down reform initiatives often fail to take on board the front-line officials. Implementation thus suffers, especially when the attention of the top-down driver shifts elsewhere.

The 2015 World Development Report, Mind, Society and Behavior, thus points to the need to understand the motivations and behavioral characteristics of different players, such as politicians and government bureaucrats, and how these affect their decisions and actions. The WDR argues that such an understanding helps design policy interventions and reforms that stand a chance of success even in seemingly intractable situations.

This brings us to a third way of reform, less common but potentially more powerful – one that is driven by the middle tiers of bureaucracy. Reforms initiated in the trenches enjoy, almost by definition, the commitment of those responsible for implementation. Reforms may also be better designed, since the officials know exactly what is feasible and where there are pitfalls. A single bottom-up reform may not be very bold.  But one reform may lead to another, and the cumulative impact may make a big difference.

Donor programs usually don’t regard mid-level officials as key drivers of reforms. It is often assumed that such officials will oppose reforms and they should thus be bypassed or, at best, co-opted in some fashion. Such assumptions lead to many lost opportunities. Mid-level officials can often be good initiators of reform if they are properly inspired and engaged. The attitudes and perceptions of this important tier of the bureaucracy have an important bearing on the formulation of policies and regulations, as well as on their implementation. These attitudes are shaped by an awareness of business-related issues, or a lack of it.


Pages