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Small states (SST)

Innovation and Insurance: Protection Against the Costs of Natural Disaster

Olivier Mahul's picture

Natural disasters – such as tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones and floods – are costly to society, in terms of both human destruction and financial losses. Governments ultimately bear the full cost of the havoc wreaked by natural disasters, which can create an enormous strain on limited government budgets, especially in developing countries. This is even before we begin to contemplate the development impact and how the poorest of the poor are disproportionately affected.

Just last week, the world saw the widespread damage that the St. Jude storm inflicted across Europe, and we witnessed its effect on hundreds of thousands of people. Most advanced economies, however, have sufficient capacity to be able to absorb the financial losses inlicted by natural disasters. Higher-income countries enjoy (relatively) efficient public revenue systems and developed domestic insurance markets.

By contrast, developing countries do not have the same degree of access to financial and insurance markets. They face limited revenue streams, limited fiscal flexibility, and limited access to quick liquidity in the wake of an event. This is particularly so for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as the Pacific island nations.

Let Them Eat Cash

Shanta Devarajan's picture

The Economist this week has an excellent article on giving cash transfers, conditionally or unconditionally, to poor people to alleviate their poverty.  Calling it “possibly the single best piece of journalism on cash transfers that I’ve seen so far,” Chris Blattman—one of the scholars whose research has provided grist for this mill—laments that such writing “tends to make the Pulitzer committee fall asleep in bed.”  Maybe so, but the idea is potentially transformative.

Cash Transfers

That cash conditional on sending your children to school or taking them for a medical checkup improves health and education outcomes has been established for some time now.  More recently, some studies show that unconditional cash transfers could have the same effect.  Chris’s work demonstrates that giving cash to idle young people leads to higher business earnings than if the money were used to run vocational training courses for these people.

In parallel, Todd Moss at the Center for Global Development and my colleague Marcelo Giugale and I (along with several others) have been exploring the idea of transferring oil revenues to citizens as cash transfers, as a way of reducing the resource curse that afflicts many resource-rich countries, especially in Africa.  Gabon for instance, with a per-capital income of $10,000 has the second-lowest child immunization rate in Africa.  Marcelo and I show that, with just 10 percent of resource revenues’ being transferred directly to citizens (in equal amounts), poverty can largely be eliminated in the smaller resource-rich African countries.

Relaunching Africa Can and Sharing Africa’s Growth

Francisco Ferreira's picture

Dear Africa Can readers, we’ve heard from many of you since our former Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan left the region for a new Bank position that you want Africa Can to continue highlighting the economic challenges and amazing successes that face the continent. We agree.

Today, we are re-launching Africa Can as a forum for discussing ideas about economic policy reform in Africa as a useful, if not essential, tool in the quest to end poverty in the region.

You’ll continue to hear from many of the same bloggers who you’ve followed over the past five years, and you’ll hear from many new voices – economists working in African countries and abroad engaging in the evidence-based debate that will help shape reform. On occasion, you’ll hear from me, the new Deputy Chief Economist for the World Bank in Africa.

We invite you to continue to share your ideas and challenge ours in pursuit of development that really works to improve the lives of all people throughout Africa.

Here is my first post. I look forward to your comments.

In 1990, poverty incidence (with respect to a poverty line of $1.25) was almost exactly the same in sub-Saharan Africa and in East Asia: about 57%. Twenty years on, East Asia has shed 44 percentage points (to 13%) whereas Africa has only lost 8 points (to 49%). And this is not only about China: poverty has also fallen much faster in South Asia than in Africa.

These differences in performance are partly explained by differences in growth rates during the 1990s, when emerging Asia was already on the move, and Africa was still in the doldrums. But even in the 2000s, when Africa’s GDP growth picked up to 4.6% or thereabouts, and a number of countries in the region were amongst the fastest-growing nations in the world, still poverty fell more slowly in Africa than in other regions. Why is that?

How can regional integration improve access to finance in South Asia?

Sarmad Shaikh's picture

South Asia is the least integrated region in the world. Intra-regional trade in South Asia is less than 2% of GDP compared to over 20% in East Asia. Labor mobility and regional travel is minimal, with few exceptions. Even remote communication is low – only 7% of international telephone calls in South Asia are to countries within the region, compared to 71% for East Asia. The case for closer integration has remained strong for a while now, and it is refreshing to see that some movement, albeit watchful, in addressing some of the region's deep rooted political economy issues, particularly between India and Pakistan.

The discussions around closer integration have centered on energy, trade, connectivity and stability. All of these offer strong potential to enhance growth in the region. However, financial sector integration overall, and access to finance in particular, hardly ever make it to the agenda of regional integration forums and deliberations. This is unfortunate, because the region has a long way to go in providing adequate access to financial services and insurance products, especially to the vulnerable segments of the population. Given that South Asia is home to more than half a billion of the world’s poor, this becomes a poverty reduction goal as much as a financial inclusion goal.

Managing Disaster Risk in South Asia

Marc Forni's picture

Losses due to disasters to human and physical capital are on the rise across the world.  Over the past 30 years, total losses have tripled, amounting to $3.5 trillion. While the majority of these losses were experienced in OECD countries, the trend is increasingly moving towards losses in rapidly growing states. 
 
In a sense, increasing risk and losses caused by disaster are the byproduct of a positive trend - strong development gains and economic growth. This is because disaster loss is a function of the amount of human and physical assets exposed to seismic or hydrometeorological hazards, and the level of vulnerability of the assets. The richer a country gets, the more assets it builds or acquires, and therefore the more losses it potentially faces.
 
Rapid development across South Asia signals the need to commit greater efforts to increase resilience to disaster and climate risk. It also requires governments to develop a strategy to both protect against events today and to develop strategies to address the losses of the future.  This is a challenge somewhat unique to South Asia. The losses of today, predominantly rural flooding that impacts wide swaths of vulnerable populations, will begin to diminish in relative importance to the losses of the future.

Non-Tariff Measures Raise Food Prices and Hinder Regional Integration in Central America

Jose Daniel Reyes's picture

A cow browses in Nicaragua. Source - www.flickr.com/photos/ajohndoeproject/3657141084/sizes/m/in/photostream/It is July 2012 and cattle farmers in Nicaragua are worried because Guatemala has enacted a series of laws that restrict beef trade. These so-called “non-tariff measures,” or NTMs, require that beef crossing the Guatemalan border meet stricter safety and labeling standards. The Guatemalan government argues that these measures protect the country’s consumers from health hazards. But the Nicaraguan farmers say they hurt business and unfairly shelter Guatemalan producers from competition. 

This is just one example of the debates that arise in the food industry in Central America and elsewhere. While it is laudable and good policy for a government to use legitimate, non-trade related legislation to protect its citizens from certain risks, governments can also use these measures to protect domestic industry. Regardless of their intention, in an increasingly globalized, competitive world, non-tariff measures increase the cost of doing business, impact prices, affect the competitiveness of the private sector, and impact the overall welfare of the economy.

Djibouti Keeps an Eye on Quality in Efforts to Expand Access to Education

Noah Yarrow's picture

Djibouti Keeps an Eye on Quality in Efforts to Expand Access to Education

Djibouti does not make the headlines as often as its larger neighbors Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia –or Yemen, just across the Gulf of Aden.  As children go back to school this month, the small, French speaking country deserves our attention as it works to overcome serious education challenges with a committed group of partners including the World Bank.

Of Runways and Playgrounds

Nora Weisskopf's picture

Touchdown on the runway at Funafuti Airport in Tuvalu. The ATR-42 that brought us here from Nadi in Fiji slowly rolls toward the apron and as we step off the plane we are greeted by what seems to be a Welcome Committee for the plane’s arrival. With only two flights a week, the excitement of airplanes landing and departing has clearly not worn off yet – from grandmothers to playing children, young men on

Buenos Aires: How the Maldonado stream went back to its bed

Maria Madrid's picture


Imagine a busy metropolitan avenue crossing the length of Buenos Aires, Argentina, transited daily by buses and trains and lined with a large hospital, medical buildings, schools, shops and businesses.

Now imagine for 27 years this avenue flooding severely 37 times as if it were a river. During a flood, envision people being evacuated in motorboats, cars practically floating downstream, and cars and pedestrians on the bridge above it having to remain stranded there until the waters on the avenue below receded. It sounds implausible doesn’t it? Not for Buenos Aires residents it didn’t. The Juan B. Justo Avenue was such a thoroughfare.

Targeting motorcycle users to improve traffic safety in Latin America

Anna Okola's picture


Motorcycle riders and passengers have long been vulnerable users of motorized transport. In the Americas, with the increasing ownership of motorcycles, given the ease and lower costs, this trend is worrisome as the number of vulnerable users as well as those impacted by traffic crashes increases, sometimes masking a shift from pedestrian or bicycle casualties to motorcycle victims. These trends would be similar in regions such as Africa which also share the motorcycle-taxi (mototaxi) phenomenon.

The Pacific Islands Forum Responds to Climate Change

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

I am here this week in Majuro in the Marshall Islands – where leaders from the Pacific Island Forum have gathered to discuss the impacts of climate change and to push for global action to mitigate the effects.

Here in the Marshall Islands, the highest point above sea level is only 3 meters.

In May this year, an unprecedented drought in the northern atolls of the Marshall Islands left many without enough food and water.

Good Lord! Are we stuck in time?

Kerry Natelege Crawford's picture

Photo by Chico Ferreira, available under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).
(Photo by Chico Ferreira, available under a Creative Commons license - CC-BY-2.0)

What Drags Poverty Reduction in South Asia?

Zahid Hussain's picture

Poverty has been a concern in societies even before the beginning of recorded history. In the past three decades extreme poverty in the world has decreased significantly. More than half of population in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day in 1981. This has dropped to 21% in 2010. More impressively, notwithstanding a 59% increase in population in developing countries, there were 1.2 people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010, compared with 1.9 billion decades ago. However, the challenge of poverty reduction ahead remains daunting with 1.2 billion still living in extreme poverty. Freeing the world from poverty is perhaps the most important economic goal for the world today. More than a hundred countries are still not able to move away from high poverty traps.
 

Caribbean: Working together to boost growth

Andrea Gallina's picture

What is the solution to low growth in the Caribbean? That's been the question on the minds of  private sector, government and civil society representatives from 12 Caribbean countries for the last year.

They're all member of the Caribbean Growth Forum - a regional initiative designed to share experiences, ideas and expertise to promote a more prosperous Caribbean. Andrea Gallina has been coordinating the process since it launched in May 2012.

Here he explains what has been achieved so far and what the next steps are for the Caribbean.

 


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