In a recent exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, “Dinosaurs Among Us,” paleontologists use prehistoric fossil records of bones, feathers, and nests to show that some dinosaurs did not go extinct but, rather, evolved into the creatures we see today. The links they trace show how avian dinosaurs (ones that fly) evolved into modern-day birds. Paleontologists argue that avian-dinosaurs’ swift aerial mobility played a key role in determining their survival while their land-based relatives failed to thrive. Flight enabled them to relocate and adapt to drastically changing environments—a skill that their land-based relatives lacked.
Figure 1. Paleontologists argue that avian-dinosaurs (left) adapted to the changing environment quickly and evolved into birds (right).
India’s state of Chhattisgarh faced a daunting challenge in the mid-2000s. About half of its public food distribution was leaked, meaning that it never reached the intended beneficiaries. By 2012, however, Chhattisgarh had nearly eliminated leakages, doubled the coverage of the scheme, and reduced exclusion errors to low single digits.
Many countries are experiencing urbanization within the context of increased decentralization and fiscal adjustment. This puts sub-national entities (local governments, utilities and state-owned enterprises) in the position of being increasingly responsible for developing and financing infrastructure and providing services to meet the needs of growing populations.
However, decentralization in many situations is still a work in progress. And often there is a mismatch between the ability of sub-nationals to provide services, and the autonomy or authority necessary to make decisions and access financing—often leaving them dependent on national governments. Additionally, they may also contend with inadequate regulatory and policy frameworks and weak domestic financial and capital markets.
Challenges in development are growing at unprecedented rates, driven by complex human crises: refugees, rapid and unsustainable urbanization and climate change, failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, youth unemployment and disengagement, and stubbornly poor health and education outcomes, to name a few. Set against a backdrop of political and public pressure to do more with less – and see results faster than ever – even the most optimistic among us are likely to view the glass half empty.
For most of us, watching the weather forecast on TV is an ordinary, risk-free and occasionally entertaining activity. The weatherman even makes jokes! But when your income depends on the rain or the temperature, the weather forecast is more than just an informative or entertaining diversion. Information can make or break a farmer’s prospects. Farmers get a sense of the risks they face down the road and plan their planting, harvest, use of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, crop and livestock activities and market sales around weather reports and other information—on prices, local pests and diseases, changes in credit terms and availability, and changes in regulations, among other things.
The availability and quality of such agriculture risk information is hugely important for farmers, and the potential impact of bad information can be quite costly, leading the farmer to make wrong decisions and eventually lose revenue. Information systems that have unreliable sources and/or poor data processing protocols, produce unreliable results, no matter how complex the data processing model is. In other words, one can have “garbage in – garbage out.” Information is integral to agriculture risk management, not only in the short term to hedge against large adverse events, but also in the medium and long term to adapt to climate change and adopt climate smart agriculture practices. Climate-smart agriculture programs and agriculture risk management policies are toothless unless farmers have reliable information to implement changes on the ground.
Investing in agriculture risk information systems is a cost-effective way of making sure that farmers--and other actors along the food supply chain-- make the right decisions. But agriculture risk information systems in most countries suffer from lack of capacity and funding. Mexico, a country with an important agriculture sector, does not have information on market prices of agriculture products like maize, which is why a new Bank project aims to strengthen their capacity in this area. Mexico is not alone. Argentina solved this same problem recently with World Bank support, creating a market price information system for basic grains.
Global economic growth is accelerating. After registering the slowest pace since the 2007-2009 financial crisis in 2016, global growth is expected to rise to a 2.7 percent pace this year and 2.9 percent over 2018-19.
While much has been said about better economic news from the major advanced economies, the seven largest emerging market economies—call them the Emerging Market Seven, or EM7 – have been the main drivers of this anticipated pickup.
The contribution of the seven largest emerging market economies to global output has climbed substantially over the last quarter century.
The EM7 -- Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey – accounted for 24 percent of global economic output over 2010-2016, up from 14 percent in 1990s. Although this is a smaller share than the Group of Seven major industrialized economies, the G7’s portion of global economic output has narrowed to 48 percent from 60 percent over the same time frame.
In 2006, I was working in Aceh, Indonesia (with the Red Cross), a region devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Amongst other post-disaster recovery activities, we were working with 20 coastal communities, helping them with community-managed small grants and encouraging them to invest in disaster resilience within their communities.
To my delight, all 20 communities, independently, chose to invest in the restoration of their mangroves that had been completely or partially destroyed by the tsunami. To them, losing their mangroves was like losing their ancestors: Mangroves defended them, provided them with food and a livelihood, and made their coastline beautiful. The mangroves were their pride, and reclaiming the mangroves was of the highest priority for them as a community.
In a world divided over how to deal with such serious problems as terrorism, immigration, free trade, and climate change, governments agree on the urgency of solving what is arguably the biggest problem of all: supplying safe, well-located, and affordable housing for the billions of people who need it.
There is even agreement on the basic steps to that goal: improving land management and adopting more tenure-neutral policies.
There is also consensus on the fact that government alone cannot afford to pay the bill. According to McKinsey & Co., the annual price tag for filling the “global housing gap” ($1.6 trillion) is twice the cost of the global investments needed in public infrastructure to keep pace with GDP growth.