These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
How women will dominate the workplace BRIC by BRIC
Despite recent wobbles in the BRICS economies, most economists agree that the majority of world economic growth in the coming years will come from emerging markets. The story of their rise to date has been one in which women have played a large and often unreported role. I believe that as the story unfolds, women's influence will rise further and emerging markets' path to gender equality may follow a very different route to that of most developed countries. READ MORE
James Harding: Journalism Today
BBC Media Center
To so many journalists, Stead has been the inspiration, the pioneer of the modern Press. His zeal and idealism, his restless fury at inequality and injustice; his belief that dogged, daring investigations could capture the public’s imagination and prompt society to change for the better; his muscular opinions, his accessible design and his campaigning newspapers – and, no doubt too, a dab of ego, showmanship, and human folly – has made him the journalist’s editor. I remember standing in the newsroom of The Times in late 2010 when the then Home Editor told me of a story that Andrew Norfolk, our correspondent based in Leeds, was working on. It was about child sex grooming: the cultivation of young, teenage girls by gangs of men who plied them with drink and drugs and passed them around middle-aged men to be used for sex. And I remember thinking: ‘This can’t be true, this feels Dickensian, like a story from another age.’ READ MORE
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
If you love books as much as I do, perhaps you too cherish the sensation of holding a new book in your hands for the first time. Or the way your nose twitches when dust lifts off the pages of an old paperback you just discovered on a bookstore shelf. Books are real treasures – they appeal to many different senses and can create memories that stay with us from childhood.
Today, more and more books take a very different form to when I was a kid. The Internet now provides us access to a vast electronic library where billions of books are available digitally rather than in the old-fashioned paper form. But there are many of us who still prefer the real thing. With this in mind, my colleagues and I at the World Bank office in Astana, Kazakhstan, held a book donation on the threshold of the New Year at the National Academic Library - one of the four depositary libraries in different regions of Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Pavlodar) back in 2005 as an effective channel for sharing of knowledge and information.
For the event, we brought a ton of World Bank publications from the country office, inviting people to walk in and take any books that appealed to them. It took just one hour to clear the shelves! As people selected multiple books from the shelves, I asked, “Are you really going to read all of those books?” Their responses surprised me pleasantly.
The central puzzle has often been wondered about in a thousand and one fora since the global financial crisis that began in 2008 erupted, wreaking havoc with several economies and millions of lives: how is it that social convulsions have not been the resultant of the financial crisis, the deep depressions it led to in the major economies of the West, the misery inflicted on millions, and the super-elite-pampering policies introduced to deal with the crisis? Why did puny efforts at protest like Occupy Wall Street and its many imitators vanish like candlelight in a storm?
In the new e-book, The End of Protest: How Free-Market Capitalism Learned to Control Dissent,[i] Alasdair Roberts, who is the Jerome L. Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, takes on this puzzle and offers an explanation.
"Financial inclusion." This phrase has been found in several recent reports. But what does “financial inclusion" truly mean? More important, what does it mean for women who constitute nearly half of the global population?
Financial inclusion is defined in the Global Financial Development Report as the “proportion of individuals and firms that use financial services.” It is one of the main catalysts of economic growth and helps to reduce poverty in the world. Access to financial services is one approach to greater financial inclusion. As all formal transactions are tied to accounts, ownership of accounts is an important aspect to measure the degree of financial inclusion. There are several crucial benefits to having a bank account, such as: facilitating the saving process; facilitating the receiving of government payments; and enabling entrepreneurship through the building of credit.
Acess to financial services has been expanding steadily as many countries have been adopting national strategies to achieve financial inclusion. (Financial inclusion strategy is defined as “road maps of actions, agreed and defined at the national or subnational level, that stakeholders follow to achieve financial inclusion objectives.”) Yet large gaps and hurdles to access financial systems remain worldwide. (See female percentages with bank accounts at formal financial institutions in 2011 based on the World Bank’s Financial Inclusion Data.)
These gaps and obstacles are especially arduous for women, for no reason other than their gender! The Findex survey, for example, shows that women refrain from opening personal accounts because they rely on their relatives’ accounts. The Global Financial Development Report of 2014 links this matter to the income inequality and the quality of the economic institutions.
The OECD this week released a report measuring how its member countries are performing in their efforts to stem illicit financial flows (IFF). While much attention is likely to focus on the chapters discussing money laundering, tax evasion and bribery -- the main sources of illicit financial flows -- the report features an important discussion of the other side of the equation: how are OECD countries performing in returning illicit financial flows?
Thanks to the efforts of the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), there is data available on the recovery of illicit flows from bribery and corruption. The OECD report previews some of this information, showing that OECD countries have improved their results in terms of freezing assets (increasing from US$1.225 billion in 2006-2009, to US$1.398 in the shorter period of 2010-June 2012). At the same time the figures demonstrate that there has been little progress on asset returns (from US$276 million in 2006-2009, to US$147 million in 2010-June 2012). Most of the activity in both periods has been in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States -- countries that have made asset recovery a political priority and that have adopted innovative approaches to overcome the barriers involved in the process.
The following post first appeared on the Huffington Post.
Half the world's adults, approximately 2.5 billion individuals, do not have an account with a formal financial institution. Lack of access to finance is disproportionately skewed towards the poor, women, youth, and rural residents. Defined as the proportion of individuals and firms that use financial services, financial inclusion is increasingly seen as critical for ending extreme poverty and supporting inclusive and sustainable development. It provides people with the tools to invest in themselves by saving for retirement, investing in education, capitalizing on business opportunities, and confronting shocks (Global Financial Development Report, 2014). According to the World Bank Group's newly launched Global Financial Development Report 2014 on Financial Inclusion, most of the unbanked cite barriers such as cost, lack of documentation, distance, lack of trust, or religious reasons.
Said Martin Sandbu, the FT economics writer that moderated the FT-MIGA Summit, Managing Global Political Risk, last week in London.
This is the fifth year that MIGA, the political risk insurance and credit enhancement arm of the World Bank, co-hosted the event to launch its World Investment and Political Risk report. Undoubtedly, these have been heady years and most participants agreed that, while it is still strong, political risk has waned since the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring. This sentiment dovetails with the findings of the report, which show that macroeconomic stability won by just a hair over political risk as the factor that international investors fear most.
Also in line with these findings, the World Bank’s Andrew Burns cautioned that the world will soon be grappling with the next group of challenges brought about by the tide. What tide? Here, Sandbu meant the significant investment that has flowed to developing countries in search of yield over the past few years, quantitative easing that has kept economies afloat, and high commodity prices. All of these factors are now in flux.
And now, the (potential) nudity. That is, as investment to emerging markets tapers, macreconomic tools are used less bluntly, and commodity prices normalize, will countries have laid enough strong economic foundations to weather the inevitable changes that will occur? And as this MIGA-sponsored conference deals with political risk, how will economic changes affect the destiny of leaders and, resultantly, citizens?
Tina Fordham of Citi Research emphasized that the structural determinants of political risk are still very present. She noted little improvement in unemployment and an increase in vox populi risk. By this she meant shifting and more volatile public opinion around the world—amplified by social media—has recently resulted in a proliferation of mass protests. Panelists discussed several other risk factors, including increasing polarization in politics, pressure on central banks to keep the economic show on the road, reduced investment in infrastructure, and a reversal in living standards in some hard-hit countries.
Settlements in cases of foreign bribery cases are big news and growing. More and more countries are allowing these procedures, and their law enforcement agencies are using them forcefully in their efforts to combat foreign bribery. The FCPA, which came into law in the US over thirty five years ago, has paved the way for many other countries to adopt similar legislations, in line with far reaching international agreements such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. These are very welcome developments, which should continue unabated.
The 2003 UN Convention Against Corruption – to which almost 170 countries have become party to - has created an environment for a radical and universal change in the international landscape of anti-bribery legislation. Actual enforcement is making a difference, as illustrated by the rapid growth in settlements by companies and individuals who have contravened the law and have to face the consequences - without going to a full trial. The figures are telling: over the past decade a total of US$ 6.9 billion has been imposed in monetary sanctions through settlements - which is clearly good news in the fight against corruption.
But in the midst of this positive development, there are a number of troubling concerns (from the perspective of the countries affected by corruption). Research by the UNODC/World Bank Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative in our new report ‘Left Out of the Bargain’ has revealed that those countries whose officials have been bribed are most often unaware of the settlements, and receive very little of the moneys involved. Of the US$ 6.9 billion, nearly US$ 5.8 billion came about when the countries where the settlement took place – mostly major financial centers - were different from those of the allegedly bribed foreign public official.
StAR’s analysis of 395 cases reveals that only about US$197 million, or 3%, was returned to the countries whose officials allegedly received bribes.
The US and European economies are showing some signs of recovery from the global financial crisis that began in 2008. As a result, the US Federal Reserve Bank is considering phasing out, or “tapering”, the extraordinary monetary policy measures through which it responded to the crisis. On May 22, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress that the Fed may begin to reduce the size of its bond buying program. There was an immediate withdrawal by investors from stocks and bonds in emerging markets. The World Bank's East Asia and Pacific regional update estimated that in East Asia alone $24 billion was withdrawn from equities and $35.2 billion from bonds. Share prices fell by 24 percent in Indonesia, 21 percent in Thailand, and 20 percent in the Philippines. Yields on 10 year local currency bonds increased by 273 basis points in Indonesia, 86 basis points in Thailand and 76 basis points in Malaysia. The exchange rate depreciated by 18 percent in Indonesia, and about 5 percent in the Philippines and Thailand. Financial markets largely recovered once the Fed decided to postpone tapering in September, but there is still nervousness. The Indonesian Rupiah and Indian Rupee both fell significantly in November, till Fed Chair nominee Janet Yellen signaled that she saw a continued need for the bond buying program.
At some point the Fed will indeed begin to taper. Investors should clearly be concerned as there is a risk of sudden and dramatic falls in asset prices. Should policy makers be concerned? Will there be an impact on growth, inflation or macroeconomic risk that requires a response from policy makers?
2013 has been a year of adjustment for Indonesia’s economy. In the recent edition of the Indonesia Economic Quarterly report, the flagship publication of the World Bank Indonesia office, we asked the questions: what are the drivers of this adjustment and how should policy respond?