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Financial Sector

3 Ways to advance usage and drive impact in financial inclusion

Dan Salazar's picture

Unprecedented technological advancements and corresponding innovations in business models have helped financial inclusion evolve beyond merely connecting people to a bank account. It is, for instance, helping level the playing field for small farmers by providing access to buyers, more efficient pricing, and speedier payments. It is replacing unwieldy paper voucher systems used amid humanitarian crises with prepaid cards for food and supplies. And it is helping small and micro-merchants expand their businesses by leveraging purchase data to enable credit scoring.

Revolutionizing mobility through blockchain

Photo: Plamenj/Flickr

As digital technology continues to transform and reshape the transportation industry over the last few years, blockchain as a decentralized distributed technology has been embraced by other fields through various applications. It has found varied applications across banking, financial services, healthcare, e-governance, and voting.

Blockchain has immense potential to solve the most pressing problems of mobility where it can be used by private & public sector to securely share and integrate data across modes of transport. It paves  the path for transforming Mobility as a Service (or MaaS), where a user may access different modes of transport (three-wheelers, bus, metro, train etc.) on a single platform with seamless connectivity. It makes a paradigm shift in redefining the customer needs in terms of service, rather than the mode of transport.

The applications of blockchain in reducing the cost of financial transactions have been implemented across sectors. In India, 80% of our travel is for distances less than 5 km and most of this is through non-motorized modes of transport which may largely be served by walking, bicycle, and cycle rickshaws. In these modes the, transaction size for every ride is small (or nil). Also, people in urban and semi-urban areas tend to use multiple modes of transport to reach their destinations. In this case, it makes sense for using digital payments that are integrated across all modes of transport. But the payment systems of today charge a transaction fee of between 0.5% to 5%. This hampers the faster uptake of digital payments, especially for smaller transactions. Blockchain greatly reduces the cost per transaction as there are no intermediaries involved in the payment system, thus making small transactions of even 1 or 2 Indian rupees ($0.014 to $0.028) digitally feasible.

World Bank guarantees help Benin refinance expensive debt & address health, education needs: a win-win

ARNAUD BRAUD AND VINCENT LAUNAY's picture



While the World Bank’s resources for low-income countries have never been greater, they still pale in comparison with these countries’ needs. Governments always need to make hard choices between infrastructure needs, social programs, and fiscal discipline. One country was recently able to strike the right balance with the support of World Bank guarantees: Benin.

Sustainable Mobility for All: Changing the mindset, changing policies

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo: Photoviriya/Shutterstock
The global conversation on transport and mobility has evolved significantly over the past five years. Take transport and climate, for instance: although data on the carbon footprint of major transport modes had been available for a long time, it was not until COP21 in 2015 that mobility became a central part of the climate agenda. The good news is that, during that same period, the space of solutions expanded as well.  For example, data sharing is now viewed as an obvious way to promote better integration between urban transport modes in cities.

In that context, the task at hand for the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All) was clear: How can we work with decision-makers and the international community to transform the conversation, harness the full potential of these emerging solutions, and take on the world’s most pressing mobility issues?

To tackle these challenges, the initiative decided to focus on three essential steps.

Policy hackathon explained: How an all-society approach can engage entrepreneurs and governments to develop better policy in West Africa

Alexandre Laure's picture
Also available in: Français
Brainstorming session at the Bamako Policy Hackathon
Brainstorming session at the Bamako Policy Hackathon. Photo: World Bank

What would happen if you put all the relevant players for the entrepreneurial ecosystem — startup founders, policymakers, developers, students, investors — into one room and facilitated an open dialogue on improving the business environment? This is exactly what is taking place in West Africa through a series of policy hackathons supported by the World Bank.

We all have a stake in development and this multifaceted process – local, top-down, bottom-up – is a great example of African innovation. Civic engagement in policymaking is not happening elsewhere so it’s not just about importing knowledge and best practice but generating lessons we can export to the rest of the world,” said Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Director of the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation (FCI) Global Practice about policy hackathons taking place in West Africa, at a recent World Bank Brown-Bag Lunch in January.

So what is a policy hackathon?

How to diversify Bhutan’s economy?

Yoichiro Ishihara's picture
Bhutan has made tremdendous progress in reducing poverty. But it needs to do a better job at diversifying its economy by improving its physical and human capital by using resource rents from hydropower.
Bhutan has made tremendous progress in reducing poverty. But it needs to do a better job at diversifying its economy by improving its physical and human capital by using resource rents from hydropower.

Will diversifying its economy help Bhutan address its youth unemployment, let alone its macroeconomic volatility and vulnerability?

With the right approach, yes.

And to that end, the latest World Bank Bhutan Development Report: A Path to Inclusive and Sustainable Development proposes solutions relevant to Bhutan’s context.

For more than ten years, developing the private sector through greater economic diversification has been Bhutan’s top policy as described in the 10th and 11th five-year plans.

Yet, youth unemployment, especially for educated Bhutanese, has remained high: 67 percent of bachelor’s degrees holders were jobless in 2016.

Diversifying the economy is touted as a standard prescription to cure such development ailments as joblessness, low productivity, and macroeconomic volatility.

However, international experience shows that this prescription does not always work.

Case in point: A World Bank’s analysis Diversified Development concludes that in resource-rich countries, investing in physical capital, human capital and economic institution are the best ways to sustain growth in the private sector.

Further to that, the development of specific sectors, which is often a common ingredient of diversification strategies in certain countries, is neither necessary nor sufficient for private-sector-led growth.

The main driver of Bhutan’s high growth and poverty reduction, hydropower has led the country’s development and will remain the backbone of its economy.

However, Bhutan needs to do a better job at diversifying its economy by improving its physical and human capital by using resource rents from hydropower.

Bhutan ranks 149 out of 160 countries on the 2018 Logistics Performance Index and 121 out of 176 countries on the 2017 ICT index.

Bhutan falls in the bottom half of the Human Capital Project rankings on critical indicators such as expected years of schooling.

Debt in low-income countries: A rising vulnerability

Patrick Kirby's picture
Download the January 2019 Global Economic Prospects report.

Since 2013, median government debt in low-income countries has risen by 20 percentage points of GDP and increasingly comes from non-concessional and private sources. As a result, interest payments are absorbing an increasing proportion of government revenues in these countries.

This increase in public debt exposes low-income countries to greater currency, interest rate, and refinancing risks. At present 11 low-income economies are in debt distress or at a high risk of debt distress, up from six in 2015. Even those low-income countries that are at low or moderate risk of debt distress face eroding safety margins.

To shield themselves from the risks associated with high debt, low-income countries urgently need to strengthen the effectiveness of domestic resource mobilization, public investment and other spending, and debt management.
 
Debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) helped to reduce public debt among low-income countries from a median debt-to-GDP ratio of close to 100 percent in the early 2000s to a median of just over 30 percent in 2013. This downward trend reversed sharply thereafter, with the median debt ratio rising to above 50 percent by 2017. The rise was especially sharp for commodity exporters.

Rising debt raises fewer concerns about debt sustainability if it is used to finance investment that raises countries’ potential output, and therefore their ability to repay loans in the future. In some low-income countries, wider fiscal deficits were matched by higher public investment. For most low-income countries, however, a substantial part of the borrowing has been used to finance a rise in current consumption.
 
Gross low-income countries (LIC) government debt

On risk and black swans in developing countries

Carlos Végh's picture

In 2014, the World Bank issued a highly relevant and timely report titled Risk and Opportunity:  Managing Risk for Development. This report analyzed the growing number of heterogenous risks and opportunities affecting developing countries.  A clear challenge in finding a consistent risk management strategy stems from the sharp differences in the risks faced by developing countries; for example, commodity price shocks, financial crises, and natural disasters have all different defining characteristics.  While we could tailor risk management strategies to each one of these types of risks, not having the benefit of a unifying framework can lead to mistakes and mismanagement of the scarce resources available to developing nations to deal with these potentially disastrous events.  Five years after the publication of the report, in a time of growing macroeconomic headwinds for emerging markets and higher exposure to natural disasters, understanding the risks faced by these economies and how to effectively manage them continues to be a key policy challenge.

In Pakistan, music meets public debt management

Andrew Lee's picture
Recently on mission in Pakistan to unveil a new tool to help the Punjab government better manage its public debt, the blog author, Andrew Lee, interacted and shared a few selfies with youth in the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.
Recently on mission in Pakistan to unveil a new tool to help the Punjab government better manage its public debt, the blog author, Andrew Lee, interacted and shared a few selfies with youth in the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.


“Sí, sabes que ya llevo un rato mirándote
Tengo que bailar contigo hoy” 
 
The Despacito tune blared in the bus, and my fellow riders kept tempo to the rhythm.
 
I was recently on mission in the Punjab province, Pakistan, on my way to the Shalimar Gardens for some sightseeing on my day off.

The last thing I expected to hear was the top song of 2017 on a bus in Lahore but in hindsight, this shouldn’t have surprised me.

We live in a global community, and across the world, individuals are getting more connected every day.  Music perfectly exemplifies this – a universal language which we can all understand.  With this increased connection comes higher expectations.

In addition to roads and clean water, citizens now demand that their government provide reliable digital connectivity. And when taxes and other revenues are not sufficient to cover this and other public services, governments must borrow to pay for it.
 
As with music, debt transcends borders, and the basics are almost the same. The key elements of music – rhythm, harmony, and melody – as with the critical components of debt – interest payments, maturity, cash flow, and risk – remain the same no matter where you are.

Managing public debt was precisely my reason to be in Lahore where I introduced a cash flow tool the World Bank helped design.

South Asia: A bright spot in darkening economic skies?

Hartwig Schafer's picture
South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of the rising uncertainties that are looming large on the global economic horizon. The region will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region. The Siddhirganj Power Project in Bangladesh. Credit: Ismail Ferdous/World Bank

If, like me, you’re a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, early January ushers in the prospect of renewed energy and exciting opportunities. And as tradition has it, it’s also a time to enter the prediction game.
 
Sadly, when it comes to the global economy, this year’s outlook is taking a somber turn.
 
In the aptly titled Darkening Skies, the World Bank’s new edition of its twice-a-year Global Economic Prospects report shows that risks are looming large on the economic horizon.
 
To sum up:  In emerging market and developing economies, the lingering effects of recent financial market stress on several large economies, a further deceleration in commodity exporters are likely to stall growth at a weaker-than-expected 4.2 percent this year.
 
On a positive note, South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of these rising global uncertainties and will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region.
 
Bucking the global decelerating trend, growth in South Asia is expected to accelerate to 7.1 percent in 2019 from 6.9 percent in the year just ended, bolstered in part by stronger investments and robust consumption.  

Among the region’s largest economies, India is forecast to grow at 7.5 percent in fiscal year 2019-20 while Bangladesh is expected to moderate to 7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19. Sri Lanka is seen speeding up slightly to 4 percent in 2019.
 
Notably, and despite increasing conflicts and growing fragility, Afghanistan is expected to increase its growth to  2.7 percent rate this year.

In this otherwise positive outlook, Pakistan’s growth is projected to slow to 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 as the country is tightening its financial conditions to help counter rising inflation and external vulnerabilities.

However, activity is projected to rebound and average 4.6 percent over the medium term.


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