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Resilient transport investments: a climate imperative for Small Island Developing Countries

Franz Drees-Gross's picture


Transport in its many forms – from tuk-tuks in Thailand to futuristic self-driving electric cars – is ubiquitous in the lives of everyone on the planet. For that reason, it is often taken for granted – unless we are caught in congestion, or more dramatically, if the water truck fails to arrive at a drought-stricken community in Africa.

It is easy to forget that transport is a crucial part of the global economy. Overall, countries invest between $1.4 to $2.1 trillion per year in transport infrastructure to meet the world’s demand for mobility and connectivity. Efficient transport systems move goods and services, connect people to economic opportunities, and enable access to essential services like healthcare and education. Transport is a fundamental enabler to achieving almost all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is crucial to meet the objectives under the Paris agreement of limiting global warming to less than 2°C by 2100, and make best efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

But all of this depends on well-functioning transport systems. With the effects of climate change, in many countries this assumption is becoming less of a given. The impact of extreme natural events on transport—itself a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions—often serve as an abrupt reminder of how central it is, both for urgent response needs such as evacuating people and getting emergency services where they are needed, but also for longer term economic recovery, often impaired by destroyed infrastructure and lost livelihoods. A country that loses its transport infrastructure cannot respond effectively to climate change impacts.

Hoping for a cloudy future for Caribbean statistics

Michael M. Lokshin's picture
Photo Credit: Lou Gold

Hurricanes Irma and Maria recently devastated the Caribbean region. Infrastructure in Dominica was severely damaged and the country suffered a total loss of its annual agricultural production. The entire population of Barbuda had to be evacuated to Antigua and other islands. Estimates by the World Bank indicate that Irma caused damages equivalent to 14 percent of GDP for Antigua and Barbuda, and up to 200 percent of GDP for Dominica. The increasing frequency of hurricanes poses a threat to the economic development and wellbeing of 40 million people living in the region.

The World Bank and other development institutions acted quickly by offering support to assess damages and losses, respond to the disaster, and assist with recovery by delivering financial packages and supporting emergency operations. However, in the longer term, the focus is on building the resilience of these small island states to natural disasters.

Data: critical for responding to disasters, but also vulnerable to them

Systems of national statistics can provide critical information about the extent of a disaster, help guide recovery operations, and assess the preparedness of countries to future shocks.  At the same time, the reliance of National Statistical Offices (NSOs) on local IT infrastructure makes them highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Computers, servers, and networks cannot operate without power; flooding and high humidity destroys hardware and storage media; looting and breaking into abandoned buildings puts sensitive information at the risk of falling into the wrong hands. Fortifying NSO buildings to withstand Category 5 hurricanes and enabling the offices to continue functioning afterwards is prohibitively expensive. Even if such structures were built, staffing would remain an issue, particularly if the entire population of the country was evacuated (as in case of Barbuda).

Cloud computing provides a very effective way to resolve that problem at a small fraction of the cost.

Towards a single market for public procurement in Caribbean small states

Shaun Moss's picture
Building seawalls. Photo: Lauren Day/World Bank

The first ever meeting of the Heads of Procurement of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) took place on June 20-21 in Barbados with the dark storm clouds of Tropical Storm Bret as the backdrop. Fittingly, the discussion focused on how to create a common market for public procurement and to use procurement as a tool to better prepare for and respond to the natural disasters endemic to the region.

A Lifetime Approach To Preventing Violence In Latin America

Jorge Familiar's picture
A prevention program against crime and violence in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador, supports sporting activities for the children from this municipality. Photo: Victoria Ojea/World Bank

One Part of Something Bigger

Israel Mallett's picture

It has been almost four years since I first became involved with the regional public-private dialogue initiative, the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF). In June 2012, I walked into the conference room at University of the West Indies,  Mona Campus for the Launch of the first phase of the initiative and there was something electric in the air. It was new and fresh, but old fears lingered; was this to become 'just another regional talk-shop?'

Wide-eyed and optimistic I was determined that for my small part it wouldn't turn out that way.

So what can be done to contain volatility and spur growth in these countries?

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Understanding Macroeconomic Volatility: Part 5. Read parts 1-4 here

How does this affect the small island economies of the Caribbean?

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Understanding Macroeconomic Volatility: Part 4. Click to read the rest of the series

What’s the connection between financial development, volatility, and growth?

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Understanding macroeconomic volatility part 3
Read parts 1 & 2


There’s good evidence that a country’s level of financial development affects the impact of volatility on economic growth, particularly so in less developed countries, as the charts below demonstrate
 

Do rich and poor countries have different approaches to counter-cyclical spending?

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Understanding Macroeconomic Volatility: Part 2

The fact is that a government can soften a recession by increasing spending (the counter-cyclical approach) to raise demand and output. If government reduces spending (the pro-cyclical approach), the likely result is a deeper recession.

Tame macroeconomic volatility to boost growth and reduce hardship in the Caribbean

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture
Volatility in financial markets gets wide attention in the public eye. Less noticed is what we in the development world call macroeconomic volatility—faster-than-desired swings in the broad forces which shape an economy. Think investment, government spending, interest rates, foreign trade and the like.

There are three key questions to analyze: how do these forces interact, what is their effect on overall growth, and what policies are best to follow? All this is of more than academic interest: macroeconomic volatility can bring substantial hardships to millions of people

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