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Latin America & Caribbean

Mind the (funding) gap, next stop: Making some extra money

Daniel Pulido's picture
Follow the authors on Twitter: @danpulido and @IrenePortabales
 

A branded metro station in Madrid
Most metro systems around the world are unable to cover their operating costs with fare box revenues, let alone fund capital expenditures. According to data from international benchmarking programs CoMET and Nova, tariff revenues cover an average 75% of operating costs, while other commercial revenues provide about 15%, resulting in an operating deficit of 10%. Similarly, a back of the envelope exercise that we conducted for Latin American metro companies showed that these had an average operating deficit of 10% in 2012. When including capital expenditures, this deficit grew to 30%. There are of course examples of metro systems that do recoup their operating costs, such as Santiago de Chile and Hong Kong, but others like the Mexico City Metro only cover half of their operating expenses with fare revenues. We should all mind this funding gap as it is a significant impediment to maintaining service quality and addressing growing urban mobility needs.

Unfortunately, the underfunding of transit systems can become chronic as public budgets are under growing pressure and the most direct solutions for increasing revenues are hard to implement: increasing fares, for instance, has proved to be politically difficult and disproportionately affects the poor, who use public transport the most; and charging a price that fully covers the social cost of private vehicle usage (i.e., congestion charges) as a way to fund transit is also politically sensitive.

In that context, transit operators are increasingly looking at new ways to tap additional sources of commercial revenue and make up for funding shortfalls, often through agreements with the private sector. Although most examples are concentrated in developed countries, some metro systems in Latin America and the developing world are looking at ways to increase non-tariff revenues:

Opening the Green Bond Market in Mexico

Mauricio González Lara's picture

“Growing a Green Bond Market in Mexico: Issuers and Investor Summit” was held Oct. 27 in Mexico City, organized by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Asociación de Bancos de México, HSBC, and Crédit Agricole. The timing could not have been better. Although the first green bonds were issued in the last decade, their popularity has exploded in recent years. According to estimates, the market will be a $40 billion one this year, a figure that represents a fourfold increase relative to last year.

A green bond is a financial market debt instrument. Its uniqueness lies in the commitment of the issuer to channel the funds raised exclusively toward green projects, that is, projects that have a positive impact on climate change and involve both renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Creative Ways Youth Can Help Feed the Future

Andy Shuai Liu's picture
How do you imagine your life 10 or 20 years from now? What if I told you that one day, there might not be enough food on your plate?
 
It is no exaggeration. Today, around 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. By 2050, we will need to produce at least 50% more food to feed a population on track to reach nine billion.
 
That’s a daunting challenge for our food systems, our planet, and our generation.
 
If we keep eating our planet, what will be left for our children and ourselves in the future? In other words, how will we nutritiously feed nine billion by 2050 in the face of environmental threats?
 
Twitter

The Media Battle for Influence in Latin America

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Latin America seems to be opening up!  The region is home to the fastest growing Internet population in the world and has experienced remarkable growth more broadly across its media industry in recent years.  

At the same time, media companies in some Latin American countries continue to battle governments for greater influence of programming.  New communications laws, cross-media publishing, and mergers among media companies further contribute to the dynamic relationships among media, governments and citizens.

With so much variation among countries regarding both the role that media play in democratic processes as well as how citizens access different platforms, it can be hard to outline major trends.  

We put two questions to Professor Silvio Waisbord of George Washington University:
  1. How has the concentration of media in Latin America changed over time?
  2. Is traditional media in Latin America still important?
His answers may surprise you.


 
Silvio Waisbord on the Evolution of Media in Latin America
 

Can the Internet Solve Conflict?

Laura Ralston's picture

Buildings in need of repair Over the past decade there has been growing interest in using the internet and other communication technologies for conflict management and peacebuilding. Two key areas have emerged: (1) using publicly available data on events and social dynamics to monitor and predict escalations of tensions or violence, and (2) harnessing the increased access to the internet and mobile telephones to promote positive peace. In both areas exciting innovations have developed as well as encouraging results.

In the first area, perhaps the most comprehensive information source is Kalev Leetaru’s “Global Database of Society” or GDELT Project that “monitors the world's broadcast, print, and web news from nearly every corner of every country in over 100 languages and identifies the people, locations, organizations, counts, themes, sources, and events driving our global society”. The event database alone covers 300 categories of peace-conflict activities recorded in public media since January 1979, while the identification of people, organizations and locations enables network graphing of connections in media records.

Bogota: TransMilenio’s overcrowding problem and a professor's solution

Jean Paul Vélez's picture
Also available in: Español
 
Follow the authors on Twitter: @jpvelez78@canonleonardo and @ScorciaH
 
Why TransMilenio isn't working (Spanish)

A few weeks ago, a video entitled “Why doesn’t TransMilenio work?” created a huge buzz among the residents of Bogota. The graphically impeccable video, produced by local Colombian firm Magic Markers, proposes solutions for addressing the systematic overcrowding problem faced by the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system known as ‘TransMilenio’. It is based on research conducted in 2012 by a university professor, Guillermo Ramirez, and his students. The video has been watched on YouTube over 700,000 times and has been discussed by important national media outlets. 

As urban transport experts and Bogotanos interested to see TransMilenio improved, we wrote a blog post in Spanish breaking down the video between the points with which we agree and the points with which we disagree, and circulated it in social media to further promote the debate. We are now sharing that blog post in English as we believe it offers some interesting discussion points about the challenges of high capacity BRT operations that are relevant in a broader context.

Youth as Change Agents to Curb Corruption in Latin America

Ledda Macera's picture
In the development world, children are often seen as the powerless victims of poverty, hunger, and social inequality, but research suggests that young people can often be powerful forces for change. From disease prevention and improved hygienic habits, information presented to children in school and through social and other media is often then passed on to parents, households, and even communities, thus encouraging positive change from the ground up. And fortunately, it appears that development experts are catching on!
 
 © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

Let’s Talk Convergence

Homi Kharas's picture

The city of Tianjin In a recent article called “Economic Convergence: The Headwinds Return”, The Economist magazine called the rapid convergence of income levels between developing countries and the United States an aberration. It presented data showing that the difference between income per capita growth in developing countries and in developed countries had peaked around 2008 and had since become steadily smaller. When China is excluded from the calculations, the difference becomes smaller still.

So should we dismiss convergence as a trend whose time is past? I would argue that this would be premature, and that convergence is still a feature of our time. The different conclusion is not because of different data--both of us use the IMF’s World Economic Outlook series for GDP per capita at purchasing power parity terms, and its forecasts until 2019—but a different approach to convergence.

Power Pools: How Cross-Border Trade in Electricity Can Help Meet Development Goals

Michael Pollitt's picture

Power lines strecth over water. Source - DCCXLIXFor nearly three-fifths of the world population, the lack of access to energy is a major challenge to economic development and poverty reduction.

Increasing cross-border trade in electricity can play a major role in helping overcome these challenges. Trade in electricity can help bring down energy prices, mitigate against power shocks, relieve shortages, facilitate decarbonization and provide incentives for market extension and integration.

Yet, countries have been reluctant to trade electricity across borders. Global exports of electricity are currently around 3 percent of total production. This is an anomaly in the energy sector. Think of oil. Roughly 64 percent of all oil produced is traded between countries.

A recent working paper published by the World Bank looks at the institutional arrangements of regional power pools in both developing regions and those in developed countries. In understanding how the regional integration of electricity markets has developed, the paper is able to draw useful lessons for the promotion of future trade arrangements.
 

Multiple Pathways – How "Why" Matters

Brian Levy's picture

Once upon a time, development seemed straightforward. Sound technical analysis identified what to do– and the rest followed. But experience has taught us that it is harder than that. As Shanta’s recent post signals, there are three competing camps – the ‘whats’, the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’. I wonder, though, whether in clarifying the differences, we might be missing the chance to learn across these different perspectives?
 
Certainly, the differences are large. At one end are the old-time-religion ‘whats’, who confidently prescribe ‘best practices’ to help countries stay on the right path – and who sometimes turn to the ‘whys’  to identify  the political and institutional blockages to good policies.  At the other end, the ‘hows’ argue that every country is unique, that the crucial knowledge for shaping and implementing policy is local, and tend to be dismissive of  efforts (especially by outsiders) to analyze political and institutional obstacles.
 
My new book, Working with the Grain  tries to steer a middle ground.  The book explores a small number of alternative development pathways that are very different from  each other – with each characterized by a distinctive set of political and institutional incentives and constraints, and thus distinctive options for policymaking and implementation.


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