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How Well did We Forecast 2014?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

A year ago, we polled Future Development bloggers for predictions on the coming year (2014).  Looking back, we find that many unforeseen (and possibly unforeseeable) events had major economic impact. 

We missed the developments in Ukraine and Russia, the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the collapse in oil prices and their attendant effects on economic growth.  At the same time, we picked the winner of the soccer World Cup, and got many of the technology trends right. Perhaps economists are better at predicting non-economic events.

Here’s the scorecard on the seven predictions made:
 

Business Leaders & Finance Ministers Changing the Conversation to Drive Clean Investment

Rachel Kyte's picture
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Executives from Alstom, the Swedish pension fund AP4, Deutsche Bank, and the French pension fund ERAFP joined finance ministers for an informal climate ministerial discussion about carbon pricing during this year's World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings. After the meeting, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group's vice president & special envoy for climate change, described the conversation and some of the takeaways.

Pension Fund CEO: Pricing Carbon Fixes a Market Failure

Philippe Desfossés's picture
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Philippe Desfossés is the CEO of ERAFP, the French Public Service Additional Pension Scheme. He spoke about carbon pricing from an investor's perspective.

“I support putting a price on carbon because it fixes a market failure. Without carbon pricing, the market has no way to address the costs associated carbon emissions. These costs end up being borne by everyone, including companies and societies.

The Fight Against Ebola Is a Fight Against Inequality

Jim Yong Kim's picture
A woman walks by an Ebola awareness sign in Freetown, Liberia. © Tanya Bindra/UNICEF
A woman walks by an Ebola awareness sign in Freetown, Liberia. ​© Tanya Bindra/UNICEF


As the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa shows, the importance of reducing inequality could not be more clear. The battle against the virus is a fight on many fronts — human lives and health foremost among them.

But the fight against Ebola is also a fight against inequality. The knowledge and infrastructure to treat the sick and contain the virus exists in high- and middle-income counties. However, over many years, we have failed to make these things accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. So now thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place.

If we do not stop Ebola now, the infection will continue to spread to other countries and even continents, as we have seen with the first Ebola case in the United States this past week. This pandemic shows the deadly cost of unequal access to basic services and the consequences of our failure to fix this problem.
The virus is spreading out of control in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As a consequence, our ability to boost shared prosperity in West Africa — and potentially the entire continent — may be quickly disappearing.

Austerity vs. Fiscal Stimulus: A False Dilemma?

Augusto Lopez-Claros's picture

The 2008-2009 global financial crisis led to a number of large–scale government interventions across the world. These included massive provisions of liquidity, the takeover of weak financial institutions, the extension of deposit insurance schemes, purchases by the government of troubled assets, bank recapitalization and, of course, packages of fiscal stimulus, sometimes of a scale not seen since World War II. Even the IMF, the world’s traditional guardian of sound public finance, came out strongly in favor of fiscal loosening, arguing through its managing director that “if there has ever been a time in modern economic history when fiscal policy and a fiscal stimulus should be used, it's now” and that it should take place “everywhere where it's possible. Everywhere where you have some room concerning debt sustainability. Everywhere where inflation is low enough not to risk having some kind of return of inflation, this effort has to be made".

Carbon Pricing – Delivering Economic & Climate Benefits

Thomas Kerr's picture

 TonyV3112/Shutterstock

A dangerously warming planet is not just an environmental challenge – it is a fundamental threat to efforts to end poverty, and it threatens to put prosperity out of the reach of millions of people.  Read the recent Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change if you need further evidence.

If we agree it is an economic problem, what do we do about it?  There is general agreement among economists that a robust price on carbon is a key part of effective strategies to avert dangerous climate change. A strong price signal directs finance away from fossil fuels and toward a suite of cleaner, more efficient alternatives.

This logic is not lost on governments and companies.  Momentum is building around the globe to put a price on carbon.  Consider these facts:

Disaster Risk: Using Capital Markets to Protect Against the Cost of Catastrophes

Michael Bennett's picture
Hurricane Sandy / NOAA
Hurricane Sandy / NOAA


In addition to their often devastating human toll, natural disasters can have an extremely adverse economic impact on countries. Disasters can be particularly calamitous for developing countries because of the low level of insurance penetration in those countries. Only about 1% of natural disaster-related losses between 1980 and 2004 in developing countries were insured, compared to approximately 30% in developed countries. This means the financial burden of natural disasters in developing countries falls primarily on governments, which are often forced to reallocate budget resources to finance disaster response and recovery. At the same time, their revenues are typically falling because of decreased economic activity following a disaster. The result is less money for government priorities like education or health, thereby magnifying the negative developmental impact of a disaster.

To address this problem, the World Bank Treasury has been helping our clients protect their public finances in the event of a natural disaster. The most recent innovation is our new Capital-at-Risk Notes program, which allows our clients to access the capital markets through the World Bank to hedge their natural disaster risk. Under the program, the World Bank issues a bond supported by the strength of our own balance sheet, and hedges it through a swap or similar contract with our client. The program allows us to transfer risks from our clients to the capital markets, where interest in catastrophe bonds is growing.

Translating the language of fisheries economists for global ocean health

Timothy Bouley's picture

Economists speak a secret language. Markets, management, supply, costs, returns, rents – words I think I know, until I see them on a PowerPoint slide with a graph and an equation that starts with a sigma. Suddenly, it becomes clear these markets aren’t only the ones where I buy my peaches and rent is something more than a monthly check.

This past week I attended the bi-annual conference for the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade. The hottest topics in fisheries economics were presented – the global state and outlook of aquaculture, capture fishery models, artisanal fishing, governance, rights based management, individual transferrable quotas, the impact of climate change, and dozens of others. Mostly comprising academics, the talks were technical, pithy, and representative of latest. An honest opportunity for discourse amongst equals to share and vet their work on ocean economies.

As a non-economist, I was in the minority here (though not a complete outsider – ecologists, trade experts, and fishermen were also in the mix). In spite of this lack of ‘expertise’ it is clear that the issue of ocean health is an economic one. We lose billions of dollars every year from mismanaging our fisheries and degrading ocean habitats. That money comes out of everyone’s our pockets. From small-scale fishers to large industry fleets to average consumers, we all pay the price. Economics can indeed play a large role in solving our ocean health problems, how challenging it is to get economists to agree on these solutions is another matter…    

Should the World Bank Become A Remittance Center?

Dilip Ratha's picture

Last week the New York Times featured an editorial suggesting that the World Bank should become a remittance center. Remittances are the "largest and arguably most effective antipoverty effort in the world.....financed by the poor themselves...,” it stated. “But the cost to transfer those billions is likely to rise soon...[as] big banks are leaving the money-transfer business, including Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase."  

"If banks can’t profitably transmit remittances — and won’t do so as a low-margin courtesy — then other secure, low-cost options must be found. One solution would be for the World Bank to become a remittance center.” 

Why should Governments Spend on Sanitation?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

A puzzle:  Sanitation is one of the most productive investments a government can make.  There is now rigorous empirical evidence that improved sanitation systems reduce the incidence of diarrhea among children.  Diarrhea, in turn, harms children’s nutritional status  (by affecting their ability to retain nutrients).  And inadequate nutrition (stunting, etc.) affects children’s cognitive skills, lifetime health and earnings.  In short, the benefits of sanitation investment are huge.  Cost-benefit analyses show rates of return of 17-55 percent, or benefit/cost ratios between 2 and 8.

But if the benefits are so high (relative to costs), why aren’t we seeing massive investments in sanitation?  Why are there 470 million people in East Asia, 600 million in Africa and a billion people in South Asia lacking access to sanitation?  Why are there more cellphones than toilets in Africa?


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