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How digital financial services boost women’s economic opportunities

Leora Klapper's picture

Imagine having to skip work every month to travel to the city center just to pay your electricity bill or your child’s school fee? Would you not worry if your income relied on remittances and you were unable to pay rent because they were tied up in a network of agents? And wouldn't it frustrate you if you didn’t have a say in how your salary was spent or invested?

Having a bank account could help in all of these situations. Most of us probably have auto-pay set up so we don't need to worry about our monthly bill payments or money transfers. But the conveniences we take for granted are out of reach for the world's 1.1 billion women who lack an account. According to World Bank’s Global Findex database, men in developing countries are 9 percentage points more likely than women to own an account. The gap is largest in South Asia, where only 37 percent of women have an account compared with 55 percent of men.

Record investment in transport boosts overall private participation in infrastructure in 2014

Henry Kasper's picture

Imagine record commitments in transport that are 26% higher than the next best year since the inception of the Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database in 1990. That’s exactly what took place in 2014—massive private participation in transport that culminated in the fourth highest level of global investment (transport, energy, and water) ever recorded. Indeed, the PPI Database’s 2014 Global Update released in June, 2015, shows that total investment in transport hit a record high of US$36.5 billion, driven by a handful of outsized deals in
Latin America and, more specifically, Brazil—including a mega airport project totaling US$10 billion. Meanwhile, energy fell 19 percent year-over-year due to fewer commitments in five out of six regions, while water grew 14 percent, driven by key deals in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. In a separate report, Telecom showed modest year-over-year declines, extending a trend of fewer projects and lower investment over the past five years.  

Boosting clean tech to power a low-carbon future

Zhihong Zhang's picture
A thermo-solar power plant in Morocco. Photo by Dana Smillie / World Bank.

Global warming can be limited by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gases stemming from human activities - particularly in the energy, industry, transport, and building sectorswhich together account for over 75% of global emissions. So low carbon technologies are key to achieving mitigation while creating new economic opportunities.
Since 2008, the $5.3 billion Clean Technology Fund (CTF) - one of the $8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds' (CIF) four funding windows—has been partnering with multilateral development banks (MDBs), including the World Bank and the IFC, to provide concessional financing to large-scale country-led projects and programs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport.
As the world gets ready for the climate negotiations in Paris later this month, the governing bodies of CTF met in Washington D..C. MDBs, donor countries, recipient countries and civil society organizations gathered to, among other things, share the results and lessons of how the CTF is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating energy savings, and improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people by creating jobs and reducing pollution.
The CTF report card is based on the results from operational projects and programs over a one year period. In total, the CTF has achieved 20 mtCO2e in emission reductionsthat’s the equivalent to taking four and a half million cars off the road or shutting down six coal fired power plants.

A better way to build -- promoting sustainable infrastructure

Robert Montgomery's picture

As countries prepare to meet at the G20 summit in Turkey next week, global growth and infrastructure needs will be at the top of decision makers’ concerns. And rightly so: Infrastructure – roads, bridges, ports, power plants, water supply – drive economic growth in many countries by facilitating manufacturing, services and trade. But it’s not just a matter of building more. To achieve good development on a planet stressed by climate change and diminishing natural resources, infrastructure needs to be sustainable.

Cities: The new frontier of social protection

Keith Hansen's picture
photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

​Consider this: By the time you had breakfast this morning, the world’s urban population grew by some 15,000 people. This number will increase to 180,000 people by the end of the day and to 1.3 million by the end of the week. On a planet with such a vast amount of space, this pace of urbanization is like crowding all of humanity into a country the size of France.

Cities are where most of the world’s population lives, where more and more of population growth will occur, and where most poverty will soon be located. 

But why do so many people choose cities? Poor people constantly pour into Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi and Mumbai in search of something better. The poorest people who come to cities from other places aren’t irrational or mistaken. They flock to urban areas because cities offer advantages they couldn’t find elsewhere.  The poverty rate among recent arrivals to big cities is higher than the poverty rate of long-term residents, which suggests that, over time, city dwellers’ fortunes can improve considerably.

Can information on the economic returns to schooling motivate students to stay in school?

Rafael de Hoyos's picture
Rafael and his classmates when they were in high school in Mexico.
Photo Credit: Rafael de Hoyos / World Bank

With Ciro Avitabile

If I could plot the number of bad decisions I’ve made throughout my life against my age there would certainly be a large hump between 15 and 18. Among the many bad decisions I made during adolescence—and believe me there were many- leaving school never even crossed my mind. To stay in high school, I not only had to be present but needed to put in a minimum effort not to fail more than a certain number of subjects which would jeopardize my right to enroll the following year.

¿Puede la información sobre los retornos a la educación mejorar los aprendizajes?

Rafael de Hoyos's picture
​Photo Credit: Rafael de Hoyos / World Bank

Con la colaboración de Ciro Avitabile

Si pudiera graficar la cantidad de decisiones desacertadas que he tomado durante mi vida en función de la edad que tenía al momento de tomarlas, no cabe duda de que observaría una gran concentración de malas decisiones entre los 15 y los 18 años. Entre las numerosas decisiones desacertadas que tomé en la adolescencia —y, créanme, fueron muchas— jamás me pasó por la mente abandonar mis estudios. Para poder seguir en el bachillerato, no solo tenía que asistir a clases, sino que debía poner un esfuerzo mínimo para no reprobar más de una cierta cantidad de materias y arriesgar mi derecho a matricularme el año siguiente.

Higher education: returns are high but we need to fund it better

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
University students at a laboratory.

Photo: Nafise Motlaq / World Bank

This week I was invited to speak at The Economist’s Higher Education Forum in New York to share my thoughts on how higher education can be expanded. I believe that we need a fair and sustainable cost-recovery model at the university level using future earnings to finance current education.

Over the past two decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of university students and graduates worldwide, which should have led to decrease in the rate of return to investment to higher education – if supply outpaced demand, of course.  While there has been some decrease in overall rates of return, investment in education is still a highly profitable investment.  Global demand for high levels skills such as working with new information and problem-solving has kept the returns to schooling high in even the poorest countries of the world. In fact, the returns to higher education are higher in lower-income countries – except in the Middle East and North Africa due to rigid labor market regulations.

What Can the Asian Tigers and Latin Pumas Learn From Each Other?

Danny Leipziger's picture

The global landscape these days is not a pretty one: collapsing commodity prices, weak demand in the OECD economies and a pronounced slowdown in many emerging markets, unpredictable capital flows affecting exchange rates, and a noticeable slump in world trade. This is clearly not a good time to be a Minister of Finance!

This is the panorama that surrounds the IMF World Bank Annual Meetings in Lima, October 8-10. The weak global picture is heavy on diagnostics of what is troubling many developing countries, but less robust on the side of policy solutions. In Lima, this will be one of the key topics of discussion during a high-level debate on “Balancing sustainable growth and social equity”.

Going universal: 24 countries and the “how” of universal health coverage

Daniel Cotlear's picture

The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the recent U.N. General Assembly meetings brought especially welcome news: The future we want now officially includes universal health coverage (UHC), as defined under SDG 3, target 8.  We also heard, the same week, from a group of economists from 44 countries, who publicly stated that “UHC makes economic sense.”  It seems the tide has turned toward making essential health care available to all who need it, without creating financial hardship.