Newcomers to Washington DC rapidly learn that to stand on the left-hand side of the metro escalator at rush-hour is to risk being run down by an impatient, backpack-wielding local. At an event today in Bishkek to celebrate the Krygyz Republic's appearance at #3 on the Doing Business 2009 list of top reformers, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Mr Akylbek Japarov, compared reform to an escalator ride where you can choose to ride or to climb. Kyrgyz reformers want to climb. Less active reformers may want to stand to the right.
Middle East and North Africa
What does it take to be a top ten Doing Business reformer? I just ran across a survey from World Public Opinion.org that might shed a little light on this question. The populations of both Azerbaijan and Egypt appear to be quite pro-globalization (or at least not very negative about the phenomenon):
CARE International has called for reform of the international food aid system in advance of a meeting of world leaders in New York on the Millennium Development Goals (Hat tip: Giulio Quaggiotto).
Much of the lament following the latest failed talks of the Doha Round centered on liberalization of trade in agriculture. The hope, at least in part, was that a reduction in subsidies in the developed world could provide a stimulus to farmers in the developing world (never mind that the global rise in food prices would have been exacerbated in the short run by a reduction in subsidies). Coupled with the failed talks is a slowdown in the OECD economies, reducing overall demand for exports from the developing world. What's a developing country to do?
It's Tuesday, so this must be Minsk. The Doing Business 2009 roadshow is here because, while last year it took 231 days to transfer property in Minsk, this year it takes just 21 - as a result of comprehensive reforms including a one-stop shop for property registration, simplified procedures and computerization of records.
While Wall Street may be in chaos, the world of finance is not all centered on New York. Around the world, microfinance has been growing by leaps and bounds, aided by innovations in technology and new varieties of microfinance institutions. That's why I'm pleased to introduce the CGAP Team as a guest contributor on the PSD blog.
Get ready to hear it ad nauseum: creative destruction! If you're an ardent supporter of the free market, there is little else to fall back on in the face of today's events on Wall Street. In fact, one might even be pleased about the turn of events, given that financial authorities allowed Lehman Brothers to fail. Avinash Persaud sums up this perspective in an op-ed today in the Financial Times:
While telemedicine is nothing new, improvements in telecommunications are creating the possibility of previously unthinkable innovations. The text message, as I've commented before, is becoming widely available in the developing world, and many organizations have taken note. A non-profit called One World launched a help service for questions on HIV in Kenya a few years ago.
Doing Business 2009 launched last Wednesday. So Friday found us in Baku to celebrate Azerbaijan's place as DB09's top reformer. We determine top reformers by looking at countries that have reformed in at least 3 of the areas of business regulation measured by the DB project, and then looking at who jumped most in the overall rankings.
If you hadn't heard, Doing Business 2009 is out. And now we can get some extra insight into the countries that have been reforming. Penelope Brook, Director of the Indicators Analysis Department, is visiting some of the top reformer countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and she'll be sending back dispatches during her trip.
The Financial Times hosted an interesting debate recently on the possibility of setting an upper limit on aid, a summary of which appears in today's print edition. The debate was prompted by Adrian Wood, a professor of international development at Oxford, who wrote an article proposing that aid donors should limit the amount of aid to any particular country at 50 percent of tax revenue. Many chimed in, including the inveterate critic of aid William Easterly, Tony Addison, Robert Wade, and others.
Apparently, degree mills - unaccredited universities - are a national security concern in Nigeria. The authorities mean business:
[The National Council on Education] is partnered with the Department of State Services—Nigeria's secret service—in locating, arresting, and prosecuting operators of unapproved universities and satellite campuses.