By 2035, Cameroon aspires to join the ranks of industrialized, upper-middle-income nations with low poverty rates, strong economic growth, and a functioning democracy. To realize that goal, the government’s strategy (Document de Stratégie pour la Croissance et l’Emploi, DSCE) envisions annual GDP growth rates of 5.5 percent and the creation tens of thousands of formal jobs each year. With a relatively more diversified economy than its more oil-dependent peers in the CEMAC region, the country seemed well-poised to achieve its objectives until at least halfway through the decade. However, Cameroon has been facing a combination of external headwinds and internal constraints that present challenges to its development aspirations, poverty remains high at 37.5 percent (in 2014).
Following the change of political leadership early in 2018, South Africa was gripped by a wave of optimism. Analysts raised their growth forecasts for the year significantly (Figure 1). At the World Bank, we were more cautious, warning in our 11th South Africa Economic Update that South Africa’s growth challenges were deep-seated and structural and would take considerable policy action and time before translating into higher growth. Nevertheless, we too raised our forecast, to 1.4% for the year. Although this made our forecast one of the most pessimistic among South African observers, we were wrong: we were too optimistic! Like other economists, we now expect growth for 2018 to have averaged less than 1%.
The overall macroeconomic and security context in Afghanistan since 2007 can be broken into two distinct phases, pre- and post- the 2014 security transition, when international troops handed over security responsibilities to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The pre-transition phase was marked by higher economic growth (GDP per capita grew 63 percent relative to its 2007 value) and a relatively stable security situation.
. With the withdrawal of most international troops and the steady decline in aid (both security and civilian aid) since 2012, the economy witnessed an enormous shock to demand, from which it is still struggling to recover.
Similarly, welfare can be characterized into two distinct phases.
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Agriculture is Uganda’s ‘green gold’ that can transform the economy and the lives of farmers. Why is it then that Uganda’s well documented agricultural potential is not realized? What specific public-sector policies and actions are required to unleash the entrepreneurial energy of Uganda’s largest private sector actors—its farmers?
According to World Bank data, 80% of global GDP is derived from urban centers. It is therefore clear that currently, cities play a key role in development.
A few years ago, when we visited Ségou, the regional capital and administrative center of the Cercle de Ségou, composed of 30 communes and located 240 kilometers from Bamako, we were able to witness a perfect illustration of the paradox of Malian cities, discussed at the 2018 Bamako Forum—although they are expanding rapidly, the economic growth potential offered by an urban area is not being realized in many Malian cities. This paradox is attributable to inadequate urban planning, which hampers the ability of the commune to be functional, economically inclusive, safe, and resilient.
Uganda Revenue authority officials tend to taxpayers during customer appreciation week in Kampala. Photo: Morgan Mbabazi/World Bank.
Less than one million people and about 40,000 firms are registered as tax payers in Uganda. That’s less than 7% of the total working age population, and less than 10% of firms with a fixed location, respectively.
For the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to be the World Bank’s resident economist for Mauritius and Seychelles. With this now coming to an end, here are some especially striking impressions of these countries’ successes and challenges that I hope can provide food for thought more widely.
Over the summer I read a few absolutely brilliant books – hence the spate of book reviews. This week I will cover two new studies on development’s biggest recent success stories – China, but first Bangladesh.
How did Bangladesh go from being a ‘basket case’ (though ‘not necessarily our basket case’ – Henry Kissinger, 1971) to a development success story, claimed by numerous would-be fathers (aid donors, NGOs, feminists, microfinanciers, low cost solution finders)? That’s the subject of an excellent new book by Naomi Hossain.
The success is undeniable. Per capita income is up to $2780 from $890 in 1991 (PPP terms). Today, that economic progess is built on 3 pillars: garments (80% of exports, 3m largely female jobs), migration (remittances = 7-10% GDP, about 9m workers overseas, mainly men) and microfinance (which has been used by about half of all households).
But perhaps even more interesting, social progress has outstripped economic growth. Infant mortality down from 258/1,000 in 1961 to 47 in 2011; women were having 7 kids in 1961 and are now having 2. In Hossain’s words (she writes well) ‘Bangladesh is the smiling, more often than not sweetly female, face of global capitalist development. Better yet – she often wears a headscarf as she goes about enjoying her new economic and political freedoms, signalling that moderate Islam can couple with global capitalism.’ (And yes, she does acknowledge that there is still a lot of hunger and deprivation).
The ‘how’ of Bangladesh’s transformation is reasonably well known. What interests Hossain is the ‘why’. It certainly isn’t down to good governance – ‘it has never been obvious why an elite known best for corruption and violent winner-takes-all politics should have committed its country to a progressive, inclusive development pathway.’
The recent debate on whether it makes more sense to measure Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Ringgit or in Dollars is a healthy one. It reflects a sound interest by many segments of Malaysian society in statistics that measure economic development and how it changes people’s living standards. This is the fundamental question: what does GDP really mean in the daily life of Malaysians. There are sound arguments on both sides and, in a way, both are right, depending on what perspective is taken.