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Financial Sector

Quote of the Week: Tidjane Thiam

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Tidjane Thiam"You can commit to what you control; if you commit to what you don’t control, you are just a fool.”

Tidjane Thiam, in response to criticism of his new plan for Credit Suisse. Rather than dramatic restructuring seen at other banks, Credit Suisse will reduce the amount of risk-weighted assets by about a fifth and raise equity through a combination of increasing capital by $6.3 billion from sales of shares, scaling back investment banking, slashing costs and a modest shake-up among senior management.

Thiam is a French Ivorian businessman and former politician who became the Chief Executive of Credit Suisse in June 2015. Born in Côte d'Ivoire, he holds dual Ivorian and French citizenship.  

What’s next for the Competitive Cities initiative: 'To travel far, let's travel together'

Ceci Sager's picture



“I wish that I had had this [report] when I started. . . . It has some great things that we found out over a long period time 
–  in many cases, through trial and error. And so, when I read it, I said, 'Wow, we are doing these things, but it did take us awhile to buy into these things.' It is going to be very informative to cities around the worlld.” 
– Tracey A. Nichols, Director of Economic Development, City of Cleveland


The World Bank Group launched the Competitive Cities report on December 10 – “Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth: What, Who and How,” which represents almost two years of research and analysis to put together a reliable, comprehensive and unified body of work. It is aimed primarily to help cities formulate and implement economic development strategies, and it is intended to be used by city leaders  themselves.
 
The report was launched jointly by the senior directors of two Global Practices at the Bank Group: the Trade and Competitiveness and the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience practices. The roundtable discussion included academics, policymakers, senior World Bank advisors, and representatives from the private sector. The Bank Group's stately Old Board Room was filled to overflowing, and the audience was particularly appreciative of the video animation summarizing the central ideas within the Competitive Cities report. The twitter feed associated with the event (#competitivecities) was inundated with live tweets. Supportive analyses in the news media – for instance, in the Huffington Post by Marcelo Giugale and at CityLab by Richard Florida – focused supportive news coverage on the event.

The launch of the report is much more than a flash in the pan. The report itself is only the start: What follows is the rollout, the active dissemination to regional task teams and city leaders, and the setting-in-motion of the findings of the report, which focuses on sub-national growth and job creation. These are some of the events we have planned:

  • Events in the various World Bank Group regions, to share the general framework and also to customize the findings of relevance to each specific region.  So far, we are considering events in Singapore, Sydney, Dar Es Salaam and potentially cities in the Middle East, North and West Africa, and in the Caribbean. If your city is interested in hosting a regional event, we would be pleased to hear from you.
  • A three-day interactive executive training course on competitive cities, which is aimed at city mayors and economic development advisors to cities.
  • An operational guide to help configure competitive cities into World Bank lending projects and advisory services, including deep dives for regional and country task teams. Let us know if you’re particularly interested in hosting such a training session in your region.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s sovereign bond issuance boom

Rasiel Vellos's picture

The newly released 2016 edition of the International Debt Statistics (IDS) shows a rapid rise in sovereign bond issuance in some Sub-Saharan African countries. This includes those countries that have benefited from Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) debt relief programs.

The chart above shows that sovereign bond issuance in certain Sub-Saharan African countries has risen substantially over the past 4 years. At the end of 2011, bond issuance totaled $1 billion and by the end of 2014, it amounted to $6.2 billion. Steady global market conditions and the potential for higher returns for investors have helped pave the way for more access to international markets, where the average return for these bond issuances is about 6.6%, with an average maturity of 10 years.

For these Sub-Saharan African countries, the proceeds from these sovereign bonds are used to benchmark for future government and corporate bond markets issues, to manage the public debt portfolio, and for infrastructure financing.

Can Islamic finance help fund large infrastructure projects in emerging markets?

Zamir Iqbal's picture



Infrastructure needs in developing countries are great and will continue to rise over the next decade. To sustain the projected global GDP growth between 2012 and 2030, US$57 trillion is needed in infrastructure investment, according to McKinsey's estimates.  
 
In emerging markets infrastructure investment needs have been forecast to range between US$14.4 and US$15.7 trillion in emerging markets from 2008 to 2020.
 
Since funding infrastructure projects usually requires a long-term and large investment, emerging markets are struggling how to meet these needs through public investments or even traditional bank funding.
 
Figuring out how to finance investments needed in infrastructure is one of the key issues on the G20 agenda and has also been identified in the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
While private-public partnerships are usually mentioned as one way to bridge this financing gap, using Islamic finance or other asset-backed financial mechanisms to fund long-term development has started to gain traction in recent years.
 
As part of events held around the G20 Summit, the World Bank Group with the Turkish Capital Market Board and Borsa Istanbul organized a conference on “Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Long-Term Investment Financing,” which took place on November 18-19, 2015 in Istanbul.

The Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in Romania is saving taxpayers their time

Andrea Sitarova's picture



What’s a major challenge for Romanian taxpayers? They spend hours waiting in line at tax offices.
 
In March 2014, with support of the World Bank, a Delivery Unit (DU) was set up in the Romanian Prime Minister’s Chancellery. Its mission: Get better results quicker for the PM in four priority areas.
 
Tax administration was one of them. The PM’s concern was the pain of paying taxes. Offering online services, for the first time, was one of the ways to decrease the cost of compliance. The DU estimated that they could save the taxpayer up to 12 days a year of waiting at the tax office.
 
The DU’s role was to plan for these improvements together with the Romanian Ministry of Public Finance and the Tax Administration Agency (NAFA). In a Delivery Agreement, the specific targets, metrics, activities, deadlines and responsibilities were spelled out. The DU was to then monitor the progress monthly against an agreed trajectory and help unblock problems in implementation.
 
In September 2014, the NAFA launched the online taxpayer platform called Private Virtual Space (PVS). It allows taxpayers to file their tax returns, get their tax bills and see their payments. The target was to enroll 30% of the eligible taxpayers by December 2015. Though the DU tracked progress monthly, the enrollment rate was still at 0.6% in June 2015. Clearly, the monitoring on its own did not help.

Job preservation or job creation: can’t we have it both ways?

Simon Bell's picture
Using SME lines of credit and other SME support operations for long-term development or a quick term countercyclical fix?
 
I recently attended an interesting presentation about a truly impressive credit guarantee agency, the Korean Credit Guarantee Agency (KODIT), established 40 years ago with $44 billion in outstanding guarantees and 220,000 SMEs guaranteed annually. A truly impressive institution which has opened up bank lending to more and more SMEs, which otherwise would have gone unfunded and unserved.  As one of the larger Partial Credit Guarantee (PCG) schemes in the world, the Koreans have clearly achieved remarkable results at an impressive scale.
 
The one thing that struck me most, however, was the slide reproduced below. KODIT explicitly uses a guarantee instrument on SME loans as a tool of countercyclical policy. So, when the economy enters a down turn, guarantees are more liberally applied to ensure that SMEs don’t go out of business and adversely impact the generally negative economic scenario. “Job Preservation” becomes more important than “Job Creation.” With 99% of registered firms in Korea being SMEs, and with 87% of Korean employment coming from SMEs,supporting this sector in a down turn is clearly very important.

 

Korea is not unique.  During the early days of the Great Recession in 2008, the Small Business Administration of the United States of America increased SME guarantees in the face of an economic down turn.  Since the summer of 2015, the Chinese government has begun to offer subsidized loans to SMEs to counteract the effects of the Chinese slow down. Countries such as Turkey, Ecuador, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Myanmar and Egypt are increasingly seeking World Bank support for SME lines of credit, SME guarantee programs, and other forms of SME support. Supporting SMEs is clearly a well-recognized and frequently applied tool of economic policy.
 
Yet our own World Bank guidelines stipulate that SME-support interventions are meant to help achieve longer-term developmental goals – broadening and deepening financial markets so that financial systems can ultimately take on these types of lending without the need for outside intervention. In fact, a 2014 IEG Report on “The Big Business of Small Enterprise” criticized the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and MIGA for undertaking SME I, followed by SME II, followed by SME III, followed by SME IV, with no visible increase in the capacity of the underlying financial sector to sustain such lending on its own account, very little lengthening of the tenors of SME lending, and seemingly very little increase in the commercial banking sector’s comfort levels in dealing with a clientele which all too frequently is perceived by private lenders as being unduly risky.
 
It would actually seem, however, that SME Lines of Credit and other forms of SME support, are undertaken for several reasons but within two broad categorizations:
 
Category 1:
  • To help catalyze the market in the development of longer term financing instruments (an output, not an outcome)
  • Support employment generation (which is a prime motivation in the current global environment) or other “SME-related” objectives (such as diversification, innovation, geographic dispersion of economic activities, value chain inclusion, women’s employment, youth employment, etc)
 Category 2:
  • As a tool of countercyclical economic policy.
My strong belief is that many of the SME support operations that the World Bank is being asked to operationalize are related to putting a countercyclical policy in place in the face of an economic down turn.  Most of these governments have not “suddenly found religion” with respect to wishing to promote longer term maturities in their SME lending markets or seeking to promote greater private sector bank risk taking with growing SME portfolios.  They clearly want to have operational interventions in place as soon as possible because they face immediate economic problems.
 
It would appear that SME support mechanisms can be a  legitimate tool of countercyclical economic policy in an economic down turn. However, because speed is generally a prime pre-requisite in such an environment, these types of operations will not necessarily promote the pre-conditions for longer term market development for SME funding, an enhanced appetite for banks to lend to SMEs, or even increased support for “employment-generating” SMEs that may well be the desired target …………. and consequently, the criticism that we are not having a real lasting developmental impact.
 
Maybe the time has come start thinking about SME lending in two distinct ways: 
  • As a tool of countercyclical economic policy (much like fiscal support through a DPL, but directed at the private sector)  and
  • As a more developmental instrument (catalyzing longer term lending markets, developing instruments more attuned to “employment generating” SMEs, supporting a more robust financial infrastructure – including payments system and PCG support schemes, etc).  
Until we come to better grips with these two distinct – and equally important impacts – of SME support operations, we will continue to undervalue the short- to medium-term value of countercyclical SME lending, despite its widespread global use and its potentially hugely important economic impact.
 
 

Extending financial services to women in Bihar yields social and economic benefits

Jennifer Isern's picture


How many bank accounts do you have? One, two or more? For people in developed countries, a bank account is a fact of everyday life. A constant presence. Something that is pivotal to your home, your work and your family. But imagine if you didn’t have one. How would you be paid? How could you pay for your rent or mortgage, your food, utility bills, and so on?

Are my bananas green because of market distortions or wrong policies?

Michael J. Goldberg's picture



Green bananas. Saturday morning I head to the market to buy bananas, but I find only green ones at the stand. There is no large banana importer to complain to, no government bureaucrat to sympathize with my need for ripe bananas, and certainly no banana grower to chat with. I have to make an economically rational decision (buy them green, buy them later, or don’t buy at all) and move on to the apples, where the cycle repeats. This is a market imperfection that I understand and have to live with (although it drives me bananas).

But what about when we wear another hat, that of the Bank financial sector project designer? We are used to generating investment projects that fit different market situations, regulatory systems, and political realities. Under tight time constraints, we do what an economist might do – assume there is a market imperfection and brainstorm on the most appropriate effective solution. But a true economist would want evidence of the market imperfection from statistics, recent assessments, etc.
  
So what is a financial sector specialist to do?  The first step is to understand which of the many imperfections represents the binding constraint – the one that blocks government and private sector counterparts from taking the first steps to correct a problem. This is where the economists come in.  

Financing Africa’s cities: The local investment challenge

Thierry Paulais's picture

The 2009 financial crisis demonstrated how closely local government finances and housing policies are intertwined with the financial systems and the economy as a whole. The ramping up of efforts to combat global warming and the prospects created by the COP 21 preliminary discussions have once again thrust local governments into the spotlight, with their growing responsibilities in the areas of adaptation and mitigation.

SMEs finance leapfrogs through fintech innovations

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture



Since more than 50% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) worldwide lack adequate access to credit, the international community is proposing reforms that will help countries strengthen their financial infrastructure and make it easier for SMEs to borrow funds needed to operate and expand.


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