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Fossil fuel subsidy reform: An idea whose time has come

Marianne Fay's picture
spring meetings 2015


Fossil fuel subsidies are bad economic policy, bad social policy and bad for the environment. Yet, many countries have some type of fossil fuel subsidy. In 2013, those subsidies added up to nearly $550 billion.

Why are so many countries spending so much on what is simply bad policy? And how can they reform these subsidies? This is what a panel of government ministers who have implemented reforms debated during the IMF/World Bank Group Spring Meetings in an event organized by ESMAP and co-hosted by the World Bank Group, the United States, and Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform.

The panelists – representing countries as different as Angola, Egypt, Honduras, and Ukraine – described the countries’ varied experiences, but out of these varied experiences, four common messages emerged:

Apply for SAFE Trust Fund grants

Soukeyna Kane's picture



The SAFE Trust Fund application (Word document) is now open until 27 February 2015.
 
What is SAFE?
 
SAFE means Strengthening Accountability and the Fiduciary Environment. It is a Trust Fund group administered by the World Bank and established by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the European Commission with the aim of improving public financial management in the Europe and Central Asia region. This Trust Fund group provides support for activities to assess public financial management (PFM) performance, identify and implement actions to achieve improvements and share knowledge and good practices across countries in the region.

Rising Financial Pressures from the East

Aurora Ferrari's picture
It’s hard to get a break in the Europe and Central Asia region, it seems – even a short one. Hit hard by the troubles in the Eurozone at the beginning of the decade, emerging and developing countries in Eastern Europe are, at the beginning of this year, contending with renewed fears. Meanwhile, external pressures have built up on the Central Asia side as well.

All eyes turned to Russia recently, when on 16 December the ruble plunged by more than 11 percent, despite the Central Bank of Russia’s last-minute interest rate hike of 6.5 percentage points to 17 percent. When it looked like Russia’s turmoil might spread to global markets, western economies sat up and paid close attention.

What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the ongoing impact on our client countries in the Europe and Central Asia region.

Future Development Forecasts 2015

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Despite their mixed record last year, Future Development's bloggers once again offer their predictions for 2015.  Eight themes emerge.
 
1. Global growth and trade. The US economy will strengthen far above predictions. Together with lower oil prices and a better business climate in emerging markets, this will create substantial positive spill-overs, including to the smaller export-oriented Asian economies, boosting the growth of their manufactured exports well above recent trends. The US will look to open new free trade agreements in Asia—India may try to join—and seek opportunities to do the same in Africa. Meanwhile, Germany will face increasing resistance to the free-trade agreement with America (TTIP), just as Angela Merkel celebrates her 10th year in office.

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:
 

Why More Corruption Created Fewer Problems for Companies?

Sebastian Eckardt's picture

A Ukrainian paradox
 
Kremenchug Hydroelectric Power PlantVZ-UK002 When Ukrainians took the streets in the winter of 2013/14, protests – sparked by the then Government’s decision to suspend the signing of the association agreement with the EU – reflected widespread discontent over deep-seated corruption. From its independence over two decades ago, Ukraine has struggled with corruption and state capture.  So-called oligarchs dominate large sectors of the Ukrainian economy, extracting rents and controlling the state through direct representation in the Parliament. This allowed oligarchs to tap into rich sources of corruption, including energy subsidies, discretionary public procurement, privatization of state assets and wide spread tax fraud and evasion. These governance failures created an economy largely built around redistribution of rents. Arguably, this accounts for much Ukraine’s dismal economic performance despite an abundance of natural resources, qualified human capital and a strategic location in the center of Europe.

What will happen to the Middle East and North Africa region if the Ukraine crisis escalates?

Lili Mottaghi's picture
 Arne Hoel

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea after the popular voting in early March, the European Union and recently the U.S. and Canada have imposed their first round of sanctions—an asset freeze and travel ban on some officials in Russia and Crimea. This week NATO's foreign ministers, warning that Russian troops could invade the eastern part of Ukraine swiftly, ordered an end to civilian and military cooperation with Russia. Should the crisis escalate, potential fallout on Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries is likely. The effects would be transmitted directly through trade and indirectly through commodity prices.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week. 

Compare your country - Aid statistics by donor, recipient and sector
OECD Data - Aid Statistics

Compare your country is a service provided by the OECD. It is based on the OECD's Development Co-operation Report 2013. EXPLORE THE MAP
 

More Than One in Five Worldwide Living in Extreme Poverty
Gallup

"Gallup's self-reported household income data across 131 countries indicate that more than one in five residents (22%) live on $1.25 per day or less -- the World Bank's definition of "extreme poverty." About one in three (34%) live on no more than $2 per day. The World Bank Group recently set a new goal of reducing the worldwide rate of extreme poverty to no more than 3% by 2030, but Gallup's data suggest meeting that goal will require substantial growth and job creation in many countries. In 86 countries, more than 3% of the population lives on $1.25 per day or less." READ MORE

Are Super Farms the Solution to the World’s Food Insecurity Challenge? Ten Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

José Cuesta's picture

Join me in a Twitter Chat on why global food prices remain high on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. ET/15:00 GMT. I'll be tweeting from @worldbanklive with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Ask questions beforehand with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Looking forward to seeing you on Twitter.


Agriculture workers on a strawberry farm in Argentina. © Nahuel Berger/World Bank

Today there are 842 million who are hungry. As the global population approaches 9 billion by 2050, demand for food will keep increasing, requiring sustained improvement in agricultural productivity. Where will these productivity increases come from? For decades, small-scale family farming was widely thought to be more productive and more efficient in reducing poverty than large-scale farming. But now advocates of large-scale agriculture point to its advantages in leveraging huge investments and innovative technologies as well as its enormous export potential. Critics, however, highlight serious environmental, animal welfare, social and economic concerns, especially in the context of fragile institutions. The often outrageous conditions and devastating social impacts that “land grabs” bring about are well known, particularly in severely food-insecure countries.

So, is large-scale farming—particularly the popularly known “super farms”—the solution to food demand challenges? Or is it an obstacle? Here are the 10 key questions you need to ask yourself to better understand this issue. I have tried to address them in the latest issue of Food Price Watch.

Don’t Put All Your Exports in One Basket (That Means You, Resource-Rich Country!)

Gonzalo Varela's picture

Baku, Azerbaijan. Source - flickr.com/photos/9464116@N08/7816929566/in/photolist-cUKNPG-fdSCiF-feJL8Y-feaJrS-feurU8-feuqP6-feb4rd-fdVqvc-febfvm-fdVVrX-fdVQWB-fe7YGL-fdSz12-feb68j-feJFA5-fevRZT-fdSAzV-feaNqs-fdVWBi-feJK3C-feanKW-feap55-8Sgjmp-fe5RVE-fe5vvC-fdQwrK-fdQpv4-fe5y7w-fdQtuK-fe5KvW-fe5Agf-fe5Nbm-fe5CjQ-fe5HHs-fe5Sbs-djYTYR-8F59Fq-bkr5Tf-8E86t9-8c3pDH-8c6JB5-8AjSRo-8AjSUJ-8eGwJc-aDwLd2-8AjSWj-8E86Tb-8E4VK2-8E85Mo-a4NYwC-7ZnFFRDiversification of a country’s exports – increasing both the number of products it produces and the destinations of those products – is considered part of the path to development. Many economists and policy-makers see export diversification as an important means for increasing employment and speeding growth. Diversification also makes growth more stable, as it provides protection against shocks; a country that exports many products will not be hit so hard when the price of one falls, and similarly, a nation that exports to a wide variety of destinations will be shielded against a recession in one of them.

But new evidence contributes to a body of work suggesting that countries with an abundance of natural resources might be more prone to export concentration during spurts of high natural-resource prices – mainly in products, but also to a milder extent in trading partners – leaving them more vulnerable to price swings. 


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