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Colombia

Medellin Lab 2.0: Sharing knowledge on urban transformation

Philip E. Karp's picture
 


Medellin represents a remarkable story of urban transformation. 
 
At one point, it was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. From 1990 to 1993, more than 6,000 people were murdered annually.  Drive-by shootings were regular and indiscriminate, stemming from warfare between gang lords, drug criminals, and para-military groups.  The need for change was urgent and led to radical urban experimentation.
 
The city’s political and business leaders recognized that Medellín’s security issues could not be dealt with through policy measures alone. They initiated a series of radical programs to reshape the social fabric of the city’s neighborhoods and to mobilize the poor. 
 
City planners began addressing the problem of endemic violence and inequity through the design of public spaces, transit infrastructure and urban interventions into marginalized neighborhoods.  Key to their approach was a commitment to making the public realm a truly shared space, and a faith that they could transform Medellín’s public spaces from sites of segregation and warfare into spaces where communities would come together. 

Resilient housing joins the machine learning revolution

Sarah Elizabeth Antos's picture
Also available in: Español | Français  | 中文 

 World Bank

Machine learning algorithms are excellent at answering “yes” or “no” questions. For example, they can scan huge datasets and correctly tell us: Does this credit card transaction look fraudulent? Is there a cat in this photo?

But it’s not only the simple questions – they can also tackle nuanced and complex questions.

Today, machine learning algorithms can detect over 100 types of cancerous tumors more reliably than a trained human eye. Given this impressive accuracy, we started to wonder: what could machine learning tell us about where people live? In cities that are expanding at breathtaking rates and are at risk from natural disasters, could it warn us that a family’s wall might collapse during an earthquake or rooftop blow away during a hurricane?

Can Wealth Taxation Work in Developing Countries? Guest post by Juliana Londoño-Vélez

Development Impact Guest Blogger's picture

This is the first in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.

Developed countries have recently begun considering wealth taxes to raise revenue and curb rising inequality. Should developing countries follow suit? On the one hand, developing countries are often afflicted by acute income and wealth inequality (Alvaredo et al., 2018), and could thus benefit from a more progressive tax system. On the other hand, the question remains whether governments can enforce wealth taxes on an elite that have a vast arsenal of tools to avoid and evade taxes altogether.

My job market paper explores individual responses to personal wealth taxes and enforcement policies in Colombia. Colombia provides a unique opportunity to study these issues thanks to its extensive administrative tax microdata on the assets and debts of wealthy individuals, its numerous tax policy changes since 2002, and its recent enforcement efforts to improve compliance among the rich.

The challenges of bringing development to the remote areas of Colombia

Erwin de Nys's picture


In 2017-18 we visited the Meta department in Colombia on multiple occasions. Located right where Colombia’s Llanos Orientales (Eastern Plains) disappear south into the vastness of the Amazon rainforest, this area of the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined is a magical spot in the world’s second most biodiverse country.
 
Meta is not a poor region - it boasts some of the nation’s largest oil reserves. Highly fertile soil and multiple thermal floors have created a boom in agribusiness in recent years, while its geographic proximity to Colombia’s capital has more recently led to a thriving tourism industry.
 
Despite having made significant progress on many fronts, this region still faces critical challenges. On our last visit, we had the opportunity to chat for hours with several small-scale farmers from south-western Meta – a sub-region where economic development has been seriously damaged by the cultivation of coca leaf, the raw material used to produce cocaine.
 

Why are energy subsidy reforms so unpopular?

Guillermo Beylis's picture

It is well established in the economic literature that it’s the rich who benefit from the lion’s share of energy subsidies. Yet, it is often the poor and vulnerable who protest loudly against these reforms. Why does this happen? What are we missing?

In World Bank art exhibition, artists unpack displacement stories

Juliana J Biondo's picture
Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank

As the World Bank Group strengthens support for refugees, internationally displaced people, and their host communities, the World Bank Art Program curated a multi-dimensional art exhibition entitled, Uprooted: The Resilience of Refugees, Displaced People and Host Communities to contribute a unique perspective. This exhibition showcased the creative voices of those artists touched by the refugee crisis, or those artists who were refugees themselves.

Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. 

The Uprooted exhibition included a visual art exhibition and musical performances featuring over 30 artists from places such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Colombia, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Central African Republic, Burundi, and Guinea. The artists produced works that questioned the impact of transience in individual lives and entire communities of people.

One capstone of the exhibition was the construction of a shed intended to evoke the shelters found in places such as the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. For the exhibition, the shed was enhanced with murals on its sides. Each mural was done by the hand of a different artist – Suhaib Attar, an artist from Jordan and son of Palestinian refugee parents, Marina Jaber from Iraq, a country with millions internally displaced people, Diala Brisly, a refugee from Syria, and Didier Kassai from the Central African Republic, a country in which violence and war have forced hundreds of thousands into displacement. 

Can we regulate small and rural water supply and sanitation operators in Latin America?

Malva Baskovich's picture
The recent reforms in the water supply and sanitation (WSS) legal framework in Peru has given the National Superintendence of Water Supply and Sanitation Services of Peru (SUNASS) a new role in the regulation and supervision of service providers in small towns and rural communities, expanding its regulatory action beyond the urban area scope. Therefore, SUNASS needs to develop a regulatory framework and tools to effectively supervise around 28,000 small and rural operators, which provide service to 21% of the Peruvian population.
 
Delegates from SUNASS, with the support of the World Bank, visited different WSS sector entities in Colombia.


To achieve this goal, SUNASS, with the support of the World Bank, visited different WSS sector entities in Colombia which are responsible for the regulation, supervision and issuing policies regarding rural service provision. The objective of this South-South knowledge exchange was to gain valuable information from the Colombian counterparts about the challenges, lessons learned, and useful mechanisms for a successful reform process. 

Effects of Colombia Mayor on health. Good news for social pensions — sort of

Carlos Rodríguez Castelán's picture
 



Latin America is aging rapidly. It took nearly a century for the population of those 60 years of age and older to double in most high-income countries. Yet, most Latin American countries will undergo this process in less than 20 years; countries in the region are thus “getting old before getting rich”. These nations will reach a high proportion of older people (a quarter by 2050) before consolidating high-income status and likely without having comprehensive pension programs.
 

GIF: making climate-smart infrastructure bankable

Michael Tran's picture


Photo: only_kim / Shutterstock.com 

There are many drivers of climate change, but few would disagree that energy infrastructure built according to “business-as-usual” standards is a major one. Meeting the lofty goals set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accords requires powering our homes, businesses, and government agencies with a cleaner mix of energy that includes more renewable sources. It also requires promoting standards that encourage energy efficiency—for example, for appliances or building codes—as a low-cost and high-impact way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 
 
The Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) is playing a positive role by preparing bankable, climate-smart projects that help countries build low-carbon energy infrastructure and encourage greater energy-efficiency measures. The GIF both drives and leverages private sector investments in climate-smart projects by promoting good governance and standardization in project preparation and has a sizeable portfolio of climate-smart projects in the pipeline.

Communicating volcanic risk: lava, eruptions and uncertainty

Jon Mikel Walton's picture
Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala, one of Central America’s most active volcanos, spews ash and lava flows in January 2018, just 70 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Image credit: NASA
Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala, one of Central America’s most active volcanos, spews ash and lava flows in January 2018, just 70 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Image credit: NASA

We live in an age of compounding uncertainty. The unpredictable impacts of climate change and the rapid urbanization of societies is increasing the complexity, difficulty, and necessity of making sound decisions when faced with numerous options. This uncertainty is acute with respect to natural disasters – for example, predicting hurricane intensity or locating the next big earthquake remain challenging tasks despite advances in science and monitoring tools.
 
The challenge of anticipating and communicating the risk of volcanic eruptions to communities requires complex decision-making. Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano and Indonesia’s Mount Agung are recent examples where the warning signs were present (small earthquakes, increasing gas emissions, and more), yet an eruption came much later than expected. Volcanic eruptions are therefore a double-edged sword that often creates a decision-making dilemma. While signs of volcanic activity can provide adequate time for preparation and evacuation, the very same signs can also create conditions of extreme uncertainty, which can be exacerbated by piecemeal communication around eruption events.
 
So, what have we learned from recent experiences on the challenges of communicating volcanic risk? 


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