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Financial Sector

Boosting South Asian Trade – Carpe Diem!

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
sar-trade-manufacturing
Ismail Ferdous/World Bank

South Asia’s Commerce Ministers meet in Thimphu on July 24. Getting there would not have been easy for many of them, with no direct flights between Thimphu and four of the seven capitals. In June, when some of us convened for a regional meeting in Kathmandu, our Pakistani colleagues had to take a 20 hour flight from Karachi to Dubai in order to get to Kathmandu! This is symptomatic of the overall state of economic engagement within South Asia—in trade in goods and services, foreign direct investment and tourism.

South Asian countries’ trade policies remain inward-looking compared to other regions, and there are even bigger barriers to trade within the region. Today, South Asia today is less economically integrated than it was 50 years ago. Figure 1 below shows that intra-regional trade in South Asia accounts for less than 5 percent of total trade, lower than any other region. 

The Algeria That Wins

Emmanuel Noubissie Ngankam's picture


His achievements may have attracted less attention than the brilliant performance of the Fennecs (“desert foxes”)—the Algerian football team which made it into the round of sixteen at the World Cup in Brazil—but they deserve to be revisited nonetheless. His accomplishments are not included in the records’ book, nor can they be reduced to an act of revenge against France, Algeria’s former colonizer: they are about the kind of success that only globalization holds the key to. 

Liability insurance for climate change

Connor Spreng's picture


Our response to climate change at the global level clearly needs improving. While some governments are managing to set and enforce limits on the emission of greenhouse gases, an international agreement that is both enforceable and meaningful remains elusive. Measures undertaken by private individuals and organizations, though plentiful, largely fail to connect to the political process and continue to fall short in aggregate. Is there a way to combine these public and private efforts? We think there is, as we’ve explored in a recent NZZ article and ETH blog post: a new type of liability insurance.

Looking to the insurance industry for addressing climate change is not new (see, for example, Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller’s column; the Geneva Association’s statement; and the climate change and insurance links discussed at the World Bank’s recent Understanding Risk conference). What has been lacking, however, are ideas for employing insurance instruments at scale, across national boundaries, and in a way that maximizes existing capacities and market mechanisms.

Looking for new ways to serve Muslim microfinance clients

Mayada El-Zoghbi's picture
“To alleviate poverty in Pakistan, we have to focus on the farmers,” says Farida Tariq, founder and chief executive officer of Wasil Foundation, a microfinance institution. “But many farmers will not opt for interest-based lending because of religious reasons.”
 
To address this gap, Wasil started offering a Sharia-compliant microfinance package aimed specifically at smallholder farmers.
 
Wasil Foundation: Islamic Financing to Farmers

Wasil is an example of how microfinance and Islamic finance can be successfully combined.
 
An estimated 650 million Muslims live on less than $2 a day. Examples like Wasil show that Islamic microfinance can play a key role in bringing the poor into the financial mainstream in a way that doesn’t force them to choose between their religious practices and their wallets.

But despite an impressive increase in the number of financial service providers that offer Sharia-compliant microfinance products in Muslim countries, Islamic microfinance is still limited to a few countries. The range of offerings is narrow as well – most are largely focused on the cost-plus-markup product known as murabaha, which is geared toward asset purchases. 

Lessons learned from policymakers on how to establish a financial consumer protection supervision department

Jennifer Chien's picture

Financial consumer protection has become a hot topic among financial-sector policymakers in recent years. Consumer protection is increasingly recognized as a critical complement to financial inclusion, particularly after the global financial crisis.

Enabling consumers to understand what financial products they’re buying, and enabling them  to “comparison shop” among providers, can lead to safer access to financial services as well as to broader financial stability.

As a result, many policymakers around the world have been putting in place laws and regulation on financial consumer protection, as evidenced by the Global Survey on Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy. At the same time, international organizations have issued guidelines and principles on designing financial consumer protection policy and regulatory frameworks, such as the G-20’s High-Level Principles on Financial Consumer Protection and the World Bank’s Good Practices on Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy.

But less guidance exists on the tricky question that immediately follows new laws and regulation: How do you implement and enforce these new rules? Policymakers have many considerations to juggle, from legal and technical issues to practical and operational concerns. Unclear legal mandates, limited supervisory capacity, the different skill sets required of staff, the need for supervisory tools adapted to financial consumer protection, and the relationship with prudential supervision – these are just some of the many questions facing regulators who are seeking to establish a financial consumer protection supervision department (“FCPSD”).

The latest technical note from the Financial Inclusion and Consumer Protection team at the World Bank (“Establishing a Financial Consumer Protection Supervision Department: Key Observations and Lessons Learned in Five Case Study Countries”) seeks to shed light on this area of growing concern. Surveys and interviews were conducted with financial consumer protection supervisors in Armenia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Peru and Portugal to gather concrete, practical insights from the experiences of these countries in setting up FCPSDs.

There is obviously no “one size fits all” approach to establishing a FCPSD, as the right approach will be highly dependent on country context. Nevertheless, the five case study countries highlight a few common obstacles and lessons learned.

Does Institutional Finance Matter for Agriculture? Evidence Using Panel Data from Uganda

Shahid Khandker's picture

Smallholder agriculture in many developing countries has remained largely self-financed. However, improved productivity for attaining greater food security requires better access to institutional credit. Past efforts to extend institutional credit to smaller farmers has failed for several reasons, including subsidized operation of government-aided credit schemes. Thus, recent efforts to expand credit for smallholder agriculture that rely on innovative credit delivery schemes at market prices have received much policy interest. However, thus far the impacts of these efforts are not fully understood.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Without Stronger Transparency, More Financial Crises Loom
Committee to Protect Journalists
The social forces that can encourage euphoria among investors and then suddenly flip them into mass panic are not unlike those that generate crowd disasters such as the stampedes that have killed more than 2,500 pilgrims at Mecca since 1990. In such moments of herd-like behavior, the common element is a profound lack of information. If neither the individuals in an enthusiastic crowd nor those charged with policing it have a grasp on how it is behaving as a whole, the mob can grow too big for its surroundings. Equally, if those people are ill-informed about the extent of the risks they face when they discover something is wrong, they will assume the worst and rush for the exits, increasing the danger to all. This describes numerous crowd disasters. It also illustrates the financial crisis of 2008.

2014 Global Peace Index
Vision of Humanity
We are living in the most peaceful century in human history; however the 2014 Global Peace Index shows that the last seven years has shown a notable deterioration in levels of peace. The Global Peace Index measures peace in 162 countries according to 22 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence. This is the 8th year the index has been produced.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Please Do Not Teach This Woman to Fish
Foreign Policy
Is there anyone out there who doesn't think small business is the lifeblood of any economy? From Washington to Warsaw, politicians and pundits just can't speak highly enough of plucky entrepreneurs. Even in poor countries, entrepreneurship is one of the most important forces underpinning economic growth, but the best way to raise living standards and reduce poverty is not necessarily to make everyone an entrepreneur. So why do so many costly development programs apparently ignore this fact? Once upon a time, people who wanted to fight poverty believed in direct approaches that solved identifiable problems one by one. If you wanted to make farmers more productive, you gave them fertilizer. If you wanted to boost manufacturing, you set up factories. To help both of these sectors grow and export goods, you built roads and ports. These kinds of investments quelled hunger and raised incomes in many countries. But recently, an indirect approach arose with promises of still greater benefits.

Where Next for Aid? The Post-2015 Opportunity
ODI/UNDP
This joint ODI-UNDP paper looks at whether development aid will remain important in the post-2015 era, and asks how the old aid model should change in response to a dramatically new world and new sustainable development challenges. The paper suggests that the label “international public finance for sustainable development” – or IPF4SD – is a more accurate description of the types of interventions that need to be funded in the post-2015 era. This finance will also be needed over the long-term. The authors suggest ways in which these funds could reliably be raised over the long-term, as well as how the architecture which mediates IPF4SD could be improved.

New Data and Momentum for Financial Inclusion in Paraguay

Douglas Randall's picture



Paraguay’ s progress towards developing a National Financial Inclusion Strategy received a boost of energy and analytical rigor last week, as the Central Bank released new demand-side data describing the current state of financial inclusion for the country’s 4.8 million adults.

According to the EIF (Encuesta de Inclusion Financiera) data, 29 percent of adults in Paraguay have an account at a formal financial institution, 28 percent of adults use a mobile money product, and 55 percent use some type of financial service (including both of the former but also credit, insurance, and other payment products). This puts Paraguay below the average for account penetration in Latin America (39 percent as of 2011), but suggests that the country is a regional leader in the expansion of mobile financial services.

The EIF was conceived of last fall when the Paraguayan authorities, eager to paint a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of financial inclusion in their country, expanded the Global Findex questionnaire to cover additional topics including financial capability, insurance, and domestic remittances. Efforts were also made to align the EIF questionnaire with the unique financial-sector landscape in Paraguay, which features a strong cooperative sector and a fast-growing mobile financial service industry led by mobile network operators (MNOs) Tigo and Personal.

The resulting EIF data, collected in late 2013 in partnership with the World Bank and Gallup Inc., represents a valuable update and extension of the 2011 Global Findex.

On June 4, the data and related analysis were presented to the public by Santiago Peña, board member of the Central Bank of Paraguay, in an event that included key stakeholders such as the Minister of Finance, the President of the Cooperatives regulator (INCOOP), the World Bank Resident Representative, and representatives from the public and private sector as well as a wide range of civil society actors.

The data and event – described in detail the next day on the front page of a national newspaper – also served to renew momentum toward the development of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. The authorities plan to use the EIF data to define targets, identify priority populations, and develop policy actions. The data will also act as a baseline from which to measure progress and as a means to hold the government accountable for its financial inclusion commitments.

The Downside of Proximity

Sanjay Kathuria's picture

 

Buy a leather case for your wife’s smartphone on Amazon, select shipping from China with an estimated delivery time of 4-6 weeks, and then be pleasantly surprised when it turns up on your Virginia doorstep in 11 days.  The marvels of the modern age – of technology, globalization, and shrinking distances.

Where does South Asia stand on export delivery? Figure 1 illustrates that compared to other economic units around the globe, it is a lot more difficult to trade with(in) SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement). It also shows that bureaucratic hurdles and the time it takes to trade go hand-in-hand. While the region does relatively well on trade with Europe or East Asia, intra-South Asian trade has remained low and costly.  It costs South Asian countries more to trade with their immediate neighbors, compared to their costs to trade with distant Brazil (see below)!  In fact, it is cheaper for South Asian countries to export to anywhere else in the world than to export to each other (Figure 3).  In other words, South Asia has converted its proximity into a handicap.   


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