Part of the World Bank’s new vision is to step up its efforts to help fragile and conflict-afflicted states break the vicious cycle of poverty. But this is no easy task.
The destruction of productive assets and the restrictions on the capacity to produce are among the most severe economic impacts of conflicts and fragility. These effects explain why countries in conflict or emerging out of conflict typically have very large trade deficits. The productive sector is often particularly weak by international standards, so exports are low and domestic consumption has to rely on imports. Indeed, five of the ten countries with the largest trade deficit in the world (Timor-Leste, Liberia, the Palestinian territories, Kosovo and Haiti) are considered fragile by the World Bank and other regional development banks (figure 1).
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Take a seat people, you’re in for a treat. Paul Collier kicks off an exchange with Justin Sandefur on that hottest of hot topics, migration. I’ve asked them to focus on the impact on poor countries, as most of the press debate concentrates on the impact in the North. Justin replies tomorrow and (if I can work the new software) you will then get to vote. Enjoy.
How does emigration affect the people left behind in poor countries? That many countries still provide little hope of even basic prosperity to their citizens is the great global challenge of our century. It is a vital matter that the poorest countries catch up with the rich world, but it will require decades of sustained high growth. To see how emigration might affect this process of convergence we need some understanding of why poor countries have remained poor. Poverty persists in very poor countries because of weak political institutions, dysfunctional social attitudes, and a lack of skills. These all make it difficult to harness economic opportunities. Emigration can either help or hinder convergence depending upon who leaves, how many leave, and for how long they go.
Potentially the most important effect of emigration is on political institutions and social attitudes. There is now solid evidence that emigrants can be influential in their home societies. Students from poor countries who have studied abroad in democracies and then return home bring with them pro-democracy attitudes. They spread these attitudes and are sufficiently influential that they speed up democratization. An astonishingly high proportion of the political leaders of poor countries have studied and worked abroad, and this equips them with both new skills and new attitudes. Even migrants who do not return have some influence with their relatives back home. During elections they give advice and commentary, and they become role models for smaller family size.
‘Over-generous tax exemptions awarded to multinational enterprises often deprive fragile states of potential revenues that could be used to fund their most pressing needs.’ Another broadside from rent-a-mob? Nope, it’s the ultra respectable OECD in its Fragile States 2014 report.
After years of growth, aid to fragile states started to fall in 2011, so the report centres around an urgent call for OECD member states to help their more fragile cousins find a post-aid arrangement that funds essential state functions and builds the ‘social contract’ with citizens.
The key is a shift from aid dependence to ‘domestic resource mobilization’ (taxes and natural resource royalties), currently averaging a feeble 14% of GDP across fragile states and far too dependent on royalties from oil, gas and mineral extraction. Foreign direct investment (factories, farms etc) is generally low in volume and volatile.
Happily, improving the lot of fragile states (no matter how they are defined) is an item that keeps racing up the agenda of international development. Sadly, however, when there is so much to repair to be done it is not always clear where to start. Donors bring their own priorities; experts have their own preferences. A new policy brief published by BBC Media Action, the international development arm of the BBC that focuses on improving media systems in developing countries, makes the case for fixing broken media systems in fragile states. Entitled Fragile States: the role of media and communication, the report is the work of James Deane, a well-known expert in the field. The report can be downloaded here.
I believe that the work is an important contribution to the policy debate. In what follows, I offer a quick sense of the argument.
TIMBUKTU, Mali - Months after a rebel attack was rebuffed in Mali, the country is striving to stabilize in order to fight poverty and boost shared prosperity. I'm visiting the West African nation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to underline international commitment to the region.
Getting Somalia right has huge regional and global implications and attracted $2.4 billion in support at a recent development partners meeting in Brussels.
Supporting fragile and conflict-affected countries to get back on a stable, hopeful development path is a key priority for me as Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa region. It is on my mind especially at the moment after being in Brussels several days ago to participate in the EU-hosted New Deal Conference on Somalia, and then visiting Bamako to pledge our support to Mali’s newly formed Government. As stated by the international community and many observers, the recent election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will open a new era of peace and reconstruction for Mali and we will be an active partner in this immense task.
The Brussels conference marks the anniversary of last year’s political transition and culminated in the endorsement of a “Compact” against which the international community pledged $2.4 billion through 2016. The conference, hosted by the EU and the Government of Somalia led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, not only helped consolidate international political support for Somalia but also generated considerable momentum for the country’s development plans and a path to international debt relief.
The Group of 20 leaders met for an intense 24-hour period over two days, discussing the situation in Syria and the global economy. Watch this video blog to hear what World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim thought shouldn't be forgotten in these important discussions.
Imagine you are a leader of an African country and your entire government budget for the year is $1.2 billion.
That same year, an investor sells 51 percent of their stake in a huge iron ore mine in your country for $2.5 billion — more than double your annual government budget.
And imagine having ordered a review into mining licenses granted by previous regimes and knowing that the investor who made the $2.5 billion sale had been granted a mining license in your country for free.
It's what happened in Guinea. It's a story I heard Guinea's president, Alpha Condé tell the G8's trade, transparency and taxation conference in London. And it's a story I thought well worth sharing at the UN Security Council's meeting on fragile states and natural resources last week.
Fragile and conflict-affected countries confront some of the most extreme risks and constraints to their management that, if unaddressed, could create a vicious cycle of poverty, fragility, and conflict with far-reaching implications beyond these states. A well-balanced and collective approach to risk and opportunity can build on the progress made toward better development results going forward.
One thing that fragile and conflict-affected states (FCSs) have in abundance is the extreme risks facing their people. In these environments, consequences of risks materializing are often a matter of life and death. People living in such states make up only 15 percent of the world population, but represent nearly one-third of all people in extreme poverty, one-third of the HIV-related deaths in poor countries, one-third of people lacking access to clean water, one-third of children who do not complete primary education, and half of children dying before reaching their fifth birthday. Only eight of the 36 FCSs have so far met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty, according to a new World Bank analysis, and the upward trend in the number of poor in FCSs (figure) is expected to take their share in the global poor population to 50 percent by 2015, according to an OECD report. The majority of MDGs in fragile states will not be met by 2015.
The incidence of extreme risks in FCSs is matched by the prevalence of severe constraints on the ability of people to manage risk. Characterized typically by high levels of corruption, weak governance and institutional capacity, an unfavourable environment for doing business and low competitiveness (figure), these states offer limited access to functioning market mechanisms, communities, or governments that provide an enabling environment for managing risk. Three quarters of the limited foreign investment in fragile states go to only seven (resource-rich) states.