Energy prices play a key role in the determination of food prices. The post-2006 boom of food prices was partly driven by higher energy costs, and the weakness in energy prices since 2014 is expected to hold food commodity prices down in the future as well.
This week, the World Bank, together with the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Co-Operation and Development, and the United Nations, submitted recommendations to the G20 on how we can best work to strengthen the capacity of our client countries to build fair, efficient tax systems. Responding to a request the G20 made in February, and working as the recently-formed Platform for Collaboration on Tax, we dug deep into our collective years of policy-setting, technical advice, and on-the-ground experience to arrive at guidance for providing assistance and suggestions for funding that work. In short, we looked at how best we could help.
The recommendations in our report, “Enhancing the Effectiveness of External Support in Building Tax Capacity in Developing Countries,” present an ambitious agenda for development partners to support developing nations to strengthen their tax systems and realize their development objectives, as well as strive for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The wealthy can borrow money to finance their investment needs because bankers trust them. Those who are less well off, and who need loans the most, do not have this access and must call upon the solidarity of their family and community to finance their investments. The same logic can be used at the country level. High income countries borrow, while many poor African countries have a limited access to international capital markets. In recent years, only one fourth of sub-Saharan African countries were able to issue international bonds—and do not have any other alternative but to solicit international aid.
Drones for Development
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental program called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.” With a name and a mission like that – and given the spotty ethical track record of drone warfare – it is little wonder that many are queasy about the continued proliferation of flying robots. But the industrial use of the lower sky is here to stay. More than three million humans are in the air daily. Every large human settlement on our planet is connected to another by air transport.
Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance
Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance
Today’s global challenges, from mass violence in fragile states and runaway climate change to fears of devastating cross-border economic shocks and cyber attacks, require new kinds of tools, networks, and institutions if they are to be effectively managed. Climate change, economic shocks, and cyber attacks are likely to have lasting and far-reaching consequences, and the marked and visible increase in mass atrocities in one country after another has reversed the trend of declining political violence that began with the end of the Cold War. Dealing with each of these issues calls for policies and actions beyond the writ or capabilities of any state and threatens to escape the grasp of present international institutions.
Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon agreeed in 2012 suggesting, “We need to move beyond gross domestic product as our main measure of progress, and fashion a sustainable development index that puts people first,” and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said in 2008, “GDP tells you nothing about sustainability.”
Even Simon Kuznets, who first coined the term GDP acknowledged in his original report to the US Congress 1934 that, "The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income."
Taking up the call for a better, more wholesome way to measure progress, the Social Progress Index, offers a framework for measuring the multiple aspects of social progress based on three dimensions: basic needs for survival, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity. It does not measure how much money is spent on policies or services that support these dimensions, but rather the experiences of citizens.
Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Index, gives the following Ted Talk to explain how the index measures the welfare of societies and what its policy implications are. He reveals a dramatic reordering of nations according to social progress.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The Challenge Of Connecting The Unconnected
Every time we return to or sign up for an Internet service (e.g. Facebook, Google, Gmail, YouTube, etc.), we rely on what UX experts call a “mental model” for navigating through the choices. A mental model is essentially a person’s intuition of how something works based on past knowledge, similar experiences and common sense. So even when something is new, mental models help to make sense of it, utilizing the human brain’s ability to transcode knowledge and recognize patterns. For instance, most of our grandparents can hit the ground running with changing the channel or increasing the volume when handed the remote control for the latest television available in the market today, squarely because of a well-developed mental model for TV remote control units. But our grandparents may not have the same level of success when using Internet services, smartphones or tablets. Under-developed mental models in these domains are their primary obstacles
Beyond Magic Bullets in Governance Reform
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Domestic reformers and external donors have invested enormous energy and resources into improving governance in developing countries since the 1990s. Yet there is still remarkably little understanding of how governance progress actually occurs in these contexts. Reform strategies that work well in some places often prove disappointing elsewhere. A close examination of governance successes in the developing world indicates that effective advocacy must move beyond a search for single-focus “magic bullet” solutions toward an integrated approach that recognizes multiple interrelated drivers of governance change.
In 2010, Ghana announced that, thanks to a GDP revision, its GDP had almost doubled. In April 2014, an even larger increase in GDP, again thanks to a statistical revision, was announced by Nigeria, catapulting it into Africa’s largest economy, ahead of South Africa. How were these vast increases in wealth possible? I would argue that the huge jumps in GDP in Nigeria and Ghana were symptomatic of major gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa data that make it extremely difficult for statistical systems to capture economic trends and development – and thus for policy makers to shape an agenda for sustainable economic development.
Vietnam has achieved remarkably high and inclusive GDP growth since the late 1980s. GDP growth per capita increased three-and-a-half-fold during 1991-2012, a performance surpassed only by China. The distribution of growth has been as remarkable as its pace: the bottom 40% of the population’s share in national income has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1990s, ensuring that the rapid income gains got translated into shared prosperity and significant poverty reduction.
GDP growth, however, has been operating on a lower trajectory since 2008. This has led to questions regarding the sustainability of the growth process, and, with it, Vietnam’s ability to bounce back to about 7-8% per capita growth. Analysts have voiced concerns over declining total factor productivity growth and growing reliance on capital accumulation. Moreover, a number of competitiveness issues routinely get raised by private investors, including: a widening skills gap, limited access to finance, relatively high trade and transport logistics costs, an overbearing presence of the SOEs, and heavy government bureaucracy that makes it difficult for businesses to operate in Vietnam.
“Accounting” may not be a word that gets many pulses racing. But what if I told you that a new kind of accounting — called natural capital accounting — could revolutionize the way the world’s nations assess and value their economies?
Currently, gross domestic product (GDP) is the most widely used indicator of a country’s economic status. But while this number places a value on all the goods and services produced by that economy, it doesn’t account for its “natural capital” — the ecosystems and the services they provide, from carbon sequestration to freshwater regulation to pollination.
The broad objective of the World Bank’s India Country Partnership Strategy Report (CPS) for the period 2013-2017 is to support poverty reduction and shared prosperity in India. The Report states that between 2005 and 2010, India’s share of global GDP increased from 1.8 to 2.7% and 53 million people were lifted out of poverty. But it also states that with population growth, it has proved difficult to reduce the absolute number of poor at a rapid pace and 400 million Indians still live in poverty. Each of the seven low income states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan; Uttar Pradesh) and seven special category states (Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Uttrakhand) have poverty rates that are higher than that of the more advanced states. The low income states, where a large majority of the poorest 200 million Indians reside, are a priority for the World Bank Country Strategy funding during 2013-2017 (estimated to be $ 5 billion annually with 60 percent lending through direct financing of state projects of which half will go to low income and special category states).
India, both in the above mentioned and its advanced states (e.g. Punjab, Haryana, Kerala) is undergoing a massive rural- urban transformation- one of the largest in the 21st century. For the first time since independence, India has seen a greater absolute growth in urban population. The number of towns has increased from about 5000 in 2001 to 8,000 in 2011 and some 53 cities have a population exceeding one million. Today 30.1 percent of the population lives in urban areas and the share is expected to rise to 50% in the next 20 years (with urban India expected to generate 70% of its GDP by 2030). Though villages vastly outnumber towns in India (660,000 villages as per Census 2011), the construct of these villages is changing as the economy grows.