We're thrilled to share the news about our brand new Online Quarterly Bulletin, which features debt statistics news, trends, and events. Laid out in the format of an e-newsletter, this quarter's issue focuses on:
Debt statistics products, coverage, and methodologies
External debt trends of 2015
International debt statistics-related activities and summaries
One area we'd like to highlight is the interconnection of the many types of debt statistics that the World Bank collects, manages, and disseminates.
The newly released 2016 edition of the International Debt Statistics (IDS) shows a rapid rise in sovereign bond issuance in some Sub-Saharan African countries. This includes those countries that have benefited from Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) debt relief programs.
The chart above shows that sovereign bond issuance in certain Sub-Saharan African countries has risen substantially over the past 4 years. At the end of 2011, bond issuance totaled $1 billion and by the end of 2014, it amounted to $6.2 billion. Steady global market conditions and the potential for higher returns for investors have helped pave the way for more access to international markets, where the average return for these bond issuances is about 6.6%, with an average maturity of 10 years.
For these Sub-Saharan African countries, the proceeds from these sovereign bonds are used to benchmark for future government and corporate bond markets issues, to manage the public debt portfolio, and for infrastructure financing.
Facilitating investments into Fragile and Conflict-Affected States (FCS) is one of the most important strategic pillars in MIGA’s Strategy. In an effort to further expand MIGA’s support in FCS countries, I recently visited Burundi, South Sudan, and Afghanistan and met with investors, government agencies, and donors. Although the investment climate varies in these FCS countries, I observed the following four common threads during my visit.
First, despite the deteriorating security situations, there are still investors seeking business opportunities in FCS countries, as long as the expected return on investment is sufficiently high to cover a required level of return plus risk premium.When it comes to the investors actively operating in FCS countries, their concerns appeared to be more focused on unexpected and arbitrary changes in government policies against their investments, rather than the security issue itself. Most aspects of the government-related procedures are risks beyond the control of investors, for example, renewal of licenses and permits, taxation, and various contracts signed with the government. Investors usually go through several political cycles during their investment horizon. An approval from the current government does not guarantee the same approval would be obtained from the succeeding government. A foreign investor I met in Afghanistan cemented this notion by telling me that “when we made a decision to invest in Afghanistan, we were already well-aware of the security issue in the country. For us, the security was a foreseeable risk that could be mitigated to some extent, if not entirely avoidable. We can take care of security risks as well as commercial risks; but what concerned us the most was the risks related to uncertainties in the government’s regulation and policy.”
Many new data companies have emerged around the world in the last few years. Of these companies, the majority use some form of government data.
There are a large number of data companies in sectors with high social impact and tremendous development opportunities.
An actionable pipeline of data-driven companies exists in Latin America and in Asia. The most desired type of financing is equity, followed by quasi-equity in the amounts ranging from $100,000 to $5 million, with averages of between $2 and $3 million depending on the region. The total estimated need for financing may exceed $400 million.
The economic value of open data is no longer a hypothesis
How can one make money with open data which is akin to air – free and open to everyone? Should the World Bank Group be in the catalyzer role for a sector that is just emerging? And if so, what set of interventions would be the most effective? Can promoting open data-driven businesses contribute to the World Bank Group’s twin goals of fighting poverty and boosting shared prosperity?
These questions have been top of the mind since the World Bank Open Finances team convened a group of open data entrepreneurs from across Latin America to share their business models, success stories and challenges at the Open Data Business Models workshop in Uruguay in June 2013. We were in Uruguay to find out whether open data could lead to the creation of sustainable new businesses and jobs. To do so, we tested a couple of hypotheses: open data has economic value, beyond the benefits of increased transparency and accountability; and open data companies with sustainable business models already exist in emerging economies.
Changes to the supply and demand of data are restructuring privileged hierarchies of knowledge, with amateur hackers and machine-readable technology becoming a central part of its analysis. Traditional experts may be hoping for a gradual evolution, but a parallel revolution led by practitioners in the private sector may already be underway. Prasanna Lal Das argues that partnerships will need to incorporate these new practitioners because for them, the data revolution is already a fact of life.
This isn’t the first age of revolution, but this one feels like it might not last 100 years. Our world is transmogrifying in front of our eyes – sometimes more forcefully than others – and the traditionally dry world of data, dominated by dons and ‘experts’, hasn’t been immune to changes either. It might even be the spark for at least some revolutionary fervour, especially since the report of the high level panel of eminent persons on the post-2015 development agenda called for a ‘data revolution’ to ‘strengthen data and statistics for accountability and decision-making purposes’. The official data revolution has however unfolded slowly, sometimes making one wonder if it’s going to be a revolution of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, and for the bureaucrats. Or if it will be a revolution that truly changes how we measure our world, what we measure in it, and who does the measurements.
Feedback is always present. Even silence is not the absence of feedback, but a quiet subtext open for interpretation. In both online and offline communities, the most difficult part is not generating feedback or even collecting it. People typically care about what is happening around them and are often willing to share their sentiments and reflections- sometimes even unable to hold back expression. The advent of writing perhaps marks an innate human desire to share information and to be heard without speaking; “true” silence may actually be quite rare, more a condition of looking and listening in the wrong places or employing a less holistic approach. The graffiti that marks the architecture of repressive regimes past and present is in itself a type of feedback, representing citizen engagement with institutions that refused to officially afford that right or offer practical channels to its citizens. As such, the key challenges that exist with feedback loops are whether or not we are listening, engaging, and actively responding by catalyzing appropriate change.