What will it take …to improve your life? …for your children to be better off? …for mothers to be healthy? …for all to get a good education? …to end poverty? More than 1.3 billion people around the globe live on less than $1.25 a day. Fighting poverty in times of crisis may be challenging, but we can’t take our eyes off the most vulnerable.
At a fishing enclave called Baie des Anges on Guinea Conakry's Atlantic coast, the country's development challenges are laid bare. In this make-shift settlement shrouded with blue tarpaulins and weighted down with stones and old tires, families battle the constant threat of flooding while they struggle to make a living from fish they smoke on cinder-block stoves. For the poor people of Guinea, better times can't come fast enough.
The statistics are tough to read. Here in Guinea, it rains for six months a year and yet drinking water is hard to find. The country has some of the world’s largest deposits of bauxite and iron ore, and still one in two people lives in grinding poverty. And it’s getting worse. The poverty rate has jumped from 53% of the population in 2007 to more than 55% in 2012. Blessed with some of Africa’s most significant agricultural and hydro-electric potential, few homes outside downtown Conakry have power at night unless they run generators; and food is often in short supply.
I joined the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, on a recent trip to Guinea where he held development talks with the President, Professor Alpha Condé, the Prime Minister, Mohamed Said Fofana, Cabinet Ministers, and local business leaders. In his discussions Diop was optimistic about the country’s development future and its potential to tackle its energy shortages, boost its agriculture production, and use its rich mining resources to transform the economy and development prospects of some of Africa's poorest people.
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The Economist’s much tweeted-about "Geography of Poverty" highlights a "poverty paradox" – that more of the world’s extremely poor people now live in middle-income countries rather than in the poorest ones. The finding comes from a new paper by Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies. But the situation could change by 2025 if the number of poor people grows in fragile states, say Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institution and Andrew Rogerson of the Overseas Development Institute in the Economist. Veteran journalist Katherine Boo, author of a new book on life in a Mumbai slum, discusses the challenge of portraying poor people as individuals in the media, in an interview with Guernica in "Reporting Poverty." Big Chinese cities are starting to adopt measures with the potential to ease pollution and "improve the long-term quality of Chinese growth," according to a story in the New York Times. "A Chinese City Moves to Limit New Cars" describes, among other things, restrictions in Guangzhou expected to cut the number of cars on city streets in half. And finally, imagine vicariously smashing mosquitoes, riding a motorbike through the streets of Lagos, or remembering life in a rural village. The BBC writes about a Nigerian video game-maker who believes Africans and non-Africans alike may want to tap into the African experience through games.
Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank
The numbers are jarring: Global prices for key food staples such as corn and soybean were at an all-time high in July 2012, with corn rising 25 percent and soybeans 17 percent in a single month.
Globally, food prices jumped 7 percent between April and July. In some countries, people now pay more than twice as much for sorghum  as they did a year earlier, the latest issue of the World Bank’s Food Price Watch shows.
This is expected to hit certain regions with high food imports, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, especially hard.
We’re looking at a significant price shock, but does that mean we’re headed for a food crisis similar to the one we experienced in 2008? World Bank economist José Cuesta, the author of the quarterly Food Price Watch report, gives his perspective on the situation.
Last month, while World Bank President Jim Yong Kim launched the gender data portal, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that “data not only measures progress, it inspires it”. Indeed when data is both relevant and effectively communicated, it can help to inform policies, identify challenges, and catalyze changes and innovations that deliver development results.
With that goal in mind, we started an Open Data Lab. One of our objectives is to help the development community become more effective data communicators by experimenting with different data visualization techniques and tools. The human brain finds it easier to process data and information if it is presented as an image rather than raw numbers or words. And visualizations that let and encourage users to interact with data can deepen their understanding of the information presented.
Employment numbers released today by the World Bank shed some light on the resilience of job creation and job preservation heretofore exhibited in most emerging countries.
Attention to the issues of relative poverty and inequality is intensifying amidst today's fragile global economy. While pre-crisis economic growth generally reduced the incidence of absolute poverty, concerns remain about relative deprivation and social exclusion, which don't necessarily decline just because someone moves out of extreme poverty. Given this, it may be time to devise a reasonable global measure of relative poverty, alongside prevailing absolute measures.
Martin Ravallion elucidated on this during a July 10 lecture at Sydney's UTS Business School, titled "A Fresh Look at Poverty: More Relatively-Poor People in a Less Absolutely-Poor World".
This week, amidst fireworks and stultifying Washington heat, five Policy Research Working Papers were published. They cover weakly relative poverty measures, PPPs in electricity generation, carbon emissions, universal health care, financial literacy, and economic analysis of projects in a greenhouse world.
In today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof gives the example of a family in Malawi that improved their lives as the result of a village savings group. We know that access to banks, cooperatives, and microfinance institutions has allowed many adults like the Nasoni family to safely save for the future, invest in an education or insure against risk, but just how widespread is the use of formal financial products worldwide? How do the barriers to access vary across regions? And how do the unbanked manage their finances?
In the past, the view of financial inclusion around the world had been incomplete. With the release of the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) Database we now have a comprehensive, individual-level, and publicly-available database that allows for comparisons across 148 economies of how adults around the world manage save, borrow, make payments and manage risk. As cited in the article, the Global Findex data shows that more than 2.5 billion adults around the world don’t have a bank account.