Co-Authors: Aleksandra Iwulska, Javier Eduardo Báez and Alan Fuchs
In April this year the Dominican Republic borrowed 1.25 billion US dollars on international markets in 30-year bonds. The DR is the only country in the B investment rating group that successfully issued 30-year bonds in the last 6 years. The country has a total of 2.75 billion US dollars for three issuances in the past 15 months.
At the same time, debt levels have been growing in the country: non-financial sector public (NFPS) debt doubled from 18.3 percent of GDP in 2007 to 36.6 in the first quarter of 2014.When considering the DR Central Bank debt stock, levels would be already close to 47 percent of GDP. It is worth noticing that Jiménez and Ovalle (2011) estimated in 56.7% the debt to GDP the maximum debt to GDP threshold that investors would consider sustainable for the DR in 2013. Meanwhile, interest payments reached a peak of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2012-13 and external debt stood at 25 percent of GDP in 2013, levels not seen since the economic crisis of 2003. But the economic realities in the DR now are much different than they were in 2003. GDP grew by 4.1 percent last year and 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014. The Central Bank forecasts the annual economic growth at 4.5 percent this year. Meanwhile, central government fiscal deficit dwindled from 6.6 percent of GDP in 2012 to 2.9 percent in 2013.
Co-Authors: Aleksandra Iwulska, Javier Eduardo Báez and Alan Fuchs
Speaking as a psychosocial practitioner-researcher, the World Bank's recent “Invisible Wounds” conference, which enabled a rich dialogue between psychologists and the Bank's economically-oriented staff, was a breath of fresh air. In most war zones, humanitarian efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial support and economic aid to vulnerable people have frequently been conducted in separate silos. Unfortunately, this division does not fit with the interacting psychosocial and economic needs seen in war zones, and it misses important opportunities for strengthening supports for vulnerable people.
A case in point comes from my work (together with Susan McKay, Angela Veale, and Miranda Worthen) on the reintegration of formerly recruited girl mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda. These girls had been powerfully impacted by their war experiences, which included displacement, capture, sexual violence, exposure to killing and deaths, and mothering, among others. After the ceasefire, they were badly stigmatized as “rebel girls” and were distressed over their inability to meet basic needs and to be good mothers. The provision of economic aid alone would likely have had limited effects since the girls believed that they were not fit for economic activity (many saw themselves as spiritually contaminated and as having “unsteady minds”), and they were so stigmatized that people would not do business with them. Similarly, the provision of psychosocial assistance alone likely would have had limited effects because the girls desperately needed livelihoods in order to reduce their economic distress and be good mothers.
Here is a situation that’s happened to me; maybe it’s happened to you, too. You’re on mission, finishing up a meeting. You’re closing your notebook, your head’s in the next meeting already, and one of the people you’ve just met with asks if you have a second.
Before you can react, she’s telling you her story. It’s a very difficult story, full of experiences you can’t imagine living through yourself. She seems to have gone back into the story in her mind – her eyes are focused beyond you, her hands tremble, and her eyes water.
Assuming you are not a trained social worker, it’s likely you have few skills you can immediately draw on to help her. And you wonder how many others like her are facing similar circumstances.
What does any of this have to do with our business? Our work brings us into contact with people and groups that have experienced extremely stressful events and situations – from grinding poverty, to forced displacement, war and natural disasters. We come into contact with some of the most wounded and most resilient people in the world. While that strength helps them survive in the face of huge challenges, these “invisible wounds” – if not addressed – take a huge toll on them and their loved ones.
Imagine you are a development practitioner in a country just coming out of conflict and you have just been put in charge of designing a community driven development (CDD) operation there.
After decades of war, you are faced with a country that has crumbling infrastructure, extremely high unemployment rates, weak local governance systems, perhaps even a vast population internally displaced or worse still, exposed to violence. Where do you begin fixing the problem? What would you prioritize? Do you begin by rebuilding and providing public goods, and hope that it would eventually re-establish the broken trust between the state and its people? Or do you directly tackle trust building first? Or perhaps you could do them simultaneously, but how would you go about doing that?
Women: Just when you thought it was safe to leave the kitchen, drive, vote, or wear pants, think again. Try Googling “Women should not,” and watch what the autocomplete function brings up. Top responses include “be allowed to vote,” “be in combat,” and “be in church.” This glimpse of the deep and pervasive sexism in our collective conscious inspired a UN ad campaign featuring women’s faces with their mouths covered in these slurs.
These disturbing messages did not emerge out of nowhere. They reflect social norms, and their rigid persistence reminds us that norms change slowly, when they change at all. According to the World Health Organization, at least 35% of the world’s women have been assaulted at some point, and many men and boys have also been victimized, particularly when their behavior goes against dominant norms.
Sheila Atieno, from Kenya, always tells her students to look both ways before crossing the street.
She understands the importance of carefully navigating roads. When she was 11, she lost a close friend. He was on his way to school when his life was taken by a speeding truck. So Atieno, now 26, decided that it was time to take action. She became a Coordinator of the African Region for YOURS, a global youth-led organization dedicated to road safety issues. She is also a leader of a group in Kenya called YOURS-K. Its mission is to “use all means possible to ensure that all road users arrive safely to their destinations.”
Road incidents are the number one cause of death for youth worldwide according to the UN Campaign for Global Road Safety. The economic cost of road accidents in developing countries is estimated to be at least $100 billion a year.
Migration has a profound impact on the lives of the migrant households, but also their societies are shaped by the cumulative effects of labor mobility and consequently remittances. Literature provides interesting insights into the true development impact of migration. Dilip was asked to provide a background document assessing the state of the current knowledge for a roundtable discussion at the Civil Society Days of the Global Forum of Migration and Development 2010 held in November in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This resulting paper (co-authored with me and Sanket) has since then been revised and recently published as a World Bank working paper.
In the paper we have reviewed a variety of studies representing different aspects of migration in order to distill key messages and new insights. Main observations arising from the survey are:
For a sending country, migration and the resulting remittances lead to increased incomes and poverty reduction, improve health and educational outcomes, and promote productivity and access to finance. Although individual variation exists, the economic impact is primarily and substantially positive. Yet, these gains come at a substantial social cost to the migrants and their families as migration may lead to eroded family structures, children losing parental care, and weaker safety nets.