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Predicting success for infrastructure in emerging markets: Moving from art to science

Jyoti Bisbey's picture

with research contributions from Zichao Wei

At conferences, in meetings, and even during casual work conversations, I am asked the same two questions:  “Which countries are ideal for investments in infrastructure?  Where should the investors invest and what new opportunities should they look toward?” 

While sitting in the World Bank gives us a bird’s-eye view of emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs), it doesn’t offer the up-close-and-personal perspective that investors demand in order to answer these questions in a succinct way.  Not that there’s any shortage of synoptic responses. Any number of “market gurus” can assess projects in a second, gathering all the low hanging fruits which are out there in EMDEs.  If there is a private deal to be made, then the deal is already done.

Are neurotic, extraverted youths in more need of financial education?

Pablo Peña's picture

Every day more and more people in the world have access to financial services. In the minds of many, that poses an important risk. People need financial education, particularly in the form of information, to prevent them from making dangerous financial mistakes. They need to be aware of fees they pay, the interest rate charged by their credit cards, and important clauses in the contracts they sign.

The funny thing is, not even people we consider financially savvy know those things. I put these kinds of questions to 30 Mexican economists, all PhDs working in the financial sector or in academia. 38% did not know the APR of their credit cards. 66% did not know approximately how much they paid last year in fees to retirement fund managers. 72% claimed they do not usually read the fine print in bank contracts.

There is no easy fix to the dropout problem

Rafael de Hoyos's picture
This page in: Espanol
Students at secondary school. Photo: © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank


When I joined the Mexican ministry of education in 2008, one of the first challenges I had was to identify effective policies to reduce dropout rates in upper secondary (grades 10, 11 and 12). Eight years, two randomized control trials, numerous workshops, and several diagnostics later, I still don’t have a precise answer. 

How Latin America’s housing policies are changing the lives of urban families

Luis Triveno's picture
Photo: Pierre-Yves Babelon/Shutterstock
In an effort to harness the benefits of urbanization and improve the living conditions of the urban poor, Latin American countries have experimented with housing subsidies. Now that the region has several decades of experience under its belt, it is time to look back and ask: Have subsidies worked? What kind of impact have they had on the lives of lower-income residents? Moving forward, how can cities pay for ongoing urban renewal?

To address those questions and share their experiences, officials in charge of designing and implementing national housing policies in eight countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru) recently met in Washington DC, along with representatives from the World Bank, Cities Alliance, the Urban Institute, and Wharton's International Housing Finance Program.

Stirred, not shaken: blended finance for climate action

Kruskaia Sierra-Escalante's picture
 Ivelina Taushanova / World Bank Group
Photo: Ivelina Taushanova / World Bank Group


Today, over 80 million tons of CO2 will be emitted from economies around the world. Tomorrow will be the same, as will the day after that. The emitted amounts of CO2 will likely stay in the atmosphere for hundreds, if not thousands of years, further compounding the challenges in reversing the current and expected effects of climate change.

This past December, in Paris, leaders of 195 nations of the world agreed that this trend must be reversed, signaling a historic turning point in the global fight against climate change. The Paris Agreement ratified a global consensus to limit the global average temperature rise to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.’ Developing nations were at the forefront of this agreement, with almost every one of them setting carbon reduction goals. While the public sector will play a major role in helping achieve the ambitious targets, the sheer volume of investment required to support low-carbon energy, transportation, and agriculture projects throughout the developing world leaves a gap of hundreds of billions of dollars that only the private sector is in a position to fill.

Latin America: Is There Hope for Prosperity After the Commodity Price Boom?

Katia Vostroknutova's picture

This blog was previously published in The World Post.

Talk about ‘growth’ in Latin America has become less upbeat today than a few years ago. That’s no surprise. For over a decade, average growth meant at least double the economic activity that we are seeing today. 

“No one helps…nadie me hace el paro”; preventing violence against women in public transport.

Karla Dominguez Gonzalez's picture

Also available in: Español

“As a young woman, I feel powerless and exposed when a man harasses me in the bus.  One feels more vulnerable because people don’t react to the situation.
No one helps… NADIE  ME HACE EL PARO.”
 
The above-mentioned quote comes from a sixteen-year-old girl who participated in one of the focus groups organized by the World Bank for a pilot project to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Mexico City’s public transport. What she and other women described about their experience was clear: when we are harassed no one does anything. The name of this pilot project reflects that: “Hazme el Paro” which is a colloquial expression in Mexico to say “have my back.”
Poster of the Campaign. 

The focus group discussion, part of an exercise to design a communication campaign, allowed us to discover that bystanders refrain from intervening not because of lack of will, but because they do not know what to do without putting themselves at risk. That’s when the project team saw a unique opportunity to try to give public transport users tools to enable them to become active interveners without violent confrontation.

The proposed intervention has three components:
  1. A marketing campaign, which provides information to bystanders about what they can do to interrupt harassment in a non-confrontational way
  2. Training for bus drivers on non-confrontational strategies for intervening when harassment occurs, and,
  3. A mobile application, which enables bus users to report when they are either victims of harassment or witnesses to it.

Lead pollution robs children of their futures

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

When the water is poor, people get sick: they have diarrhea; their growth is stunted; they die. When the air is poor, people get sick: they cough; they cannot leave their beds; they die. However, they do not look sick when there is lead in their blood. You cannot look at a child who has an unhealthy blood lead level (BLL) and say, "This is not right. Something must be done," because in most cases, there is nothing to see.

Lead (Pb) exposure—which is making headlines in the U.S. because of recent events in Flint, Michigan-- is a major source of critical environmental health risks. But the problem is subtle: Affected children do not perform as well in school. They are late to read. They are slow to learn how to do tasks. Perhaps a few more children are born with cognitive deficits. Perhaps these children have less impulse control. Perhaps they exhibit more violence.

These symptoms are not always understood as an environmental or a public health problem – or indeed a development problem. Instead, people will say it is an issue of morals or of education. They will discipline the children, and then they will take themselves to task and ask how and why they are failing to raise these children correctly. Furthermore, they will have no idea that the problem is in the children’s blood.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Studies have documented that exposure leads to neuropsychological impacts in children--including impaired intelligence, measured as intelligence IQ losses--at blood lead levels even lower than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL).  So, clearly, the effect occurs at even very low BLLs. 

Mining leaders focus on governance during the commodities downturn

Paulo de Sa's picture
Photo via Shutterstock

At this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, leaders are not hiding their concerns about the commodities downturn.

Government representatives express their frustration for not having benefited enough during the boom. Policymakers lament the lack of planning that has left their countries with no cushion in their budgets, and companies are looking to cut costs so they can weather the storm. And most importantly, communities are feeling the economic impact as mines purchase less local supplies, generate fewer jobs and halt some operations. 

Not only are things slowing down, but it seems a golden opportunity has passed us by. Fatima Denton, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, highlighted that Africa is less industrialized today than it was in 1990. After the minerals super cycle of 2000-2013, the percentage of manufacturing of African economies actually declined from 12% to 11%. 

Why does efficiency-seeking FDI matter?

Cecile Fruman's picture
Today we face an interesting paradox. The number of people in the world living in extreme poverty has decreased dramatically in the past three decades. In 1981 half of the population in the developing world lived in extreme poverty. By 2010, despite a 60 percent increase in the developing world’s population, that figure dropped to 21 percent.

While extreme poverty has diminished, however, the gap between the richest and poorest countries has increased dramatically. In 1776, when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, the richest country in the world was approximately four times wealthier than the poorest. Today, the world’s richest country is more than 400 times richer than the poorest.

What separates them?

One answer is knowledge, diversification and the composition of exports, all areas in which foreign direct investment (FDI) has an important role to play. 

FDI matters, but not all FDI is created equal
 
While FDI is important for economic growth, not all FDI is the same. One way to differentiate is by an investor’s motivations using a framework established by British economist John Dunning:
  • Natural resource-seeking investment: Motivated by investor interest in accessing and exploiting natural resources.
  • Market-seeking investment: Motivated by investor interest in serving domestic or regional markets.
  • Strategic asset-seeking investment: Motivated by investor interest in acquiring strategic assets (brands, human capital, distribution networks, etc.) that will enable a firm to compete in a given market. Takes place through mergers and acquisitions.
  • Efficiency-seeking investment: FDI that comes into a country seeking to benefit from factors that enable it to compete in international markets.

This last category – efficiency-seeking FDI – is particularly important for countries looking to integrate into the global economy and move up the value chain.
 


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