India has covered a long distance in what seems like a short time. Once proudly reckoned as one of the BRICS countries, it is now making frequent headlines in the international financial press as one of the financially fragile countries (fragile 5, fragile 8, edgy eight etc.). Like many other emerging markets in the world, India is feeling the pinch of the global liquidity retrenchment and rebalancing on its exchange rate and capital flows. Several observers have rationalized the investors’ behavior on account of the hard data on the Indian economy: growth has decelerated (from 8.9 % two years ago to 4.5 percent in fiscal year 2013), current account deficit is reigning high, inflation remains stubbornly high, and savings and investment rates have been falling. And all of this is happening amidst an upcoming national election, when elections anywhere invariably are associated with political and economic uncertainty.
What would it take for India to regain its place in a more revered acronym soon, rather than a less flattering fragile ‘n’ ensemble?
How good are the experts at evaluating countries’ anti-money-laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) systems? That was the central question in a new report released last week by the Center on Law and Globalization. The report takes a critical look at the IMF’s evaluations of the AML/CFT systems of 150 countries from 2004 to 2013. Although we may differ on some of the analysis and recommendations, the report provides ample food for thought and raises issues that need to be addressed and, in certain instances, corrected.
It isn’t possible here to provide a full overview of all the points raised in the report, but a few key messages stand out:
The report finds that assessors were too focused on formal compliance (“rules on the books”) and did not, in any systematic fashion, try to ascertain the real impact of a country’s entire AML/CFT regime in practice. In the words of the report, “Reliance (by assessors) was placed on the prima facie plausibility of the claim that adherence to the [international AML] standards would help reduce money laundering and the financing of terrorism.” This criticism goes to a wider point: that evaluations were conducted without a clear articulation of the objectives to be achieved by AML/CFT measures. If you don’t know what a system is meant to accomplish, how can you evaluate it?
These are valid points and they hold true, not just for IMF evaluations, but also for others (including the World Bank) who carried out assessments using the same internationally agreed methodology. However, the report fails to take due account of the considerable work that has been undertaken in recent years to address and correct those shortcomings.
Since 2010, an intensive process of revision has been underway to improve the AML/CFT standards and the assessment methodology. There has been a long and vigorous debate within the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global standard-setter on these issues, and between the FATF and other bodies, about the best way to remedy the system’s deficiencies to make assessment reports more useful. Both the Bank and the Fund have played a very active role in this discussion.
As a result of this process, the new standards approved in 2012, along with a new methodology approved in 2013, provide a framework to address those concerns: Countries’ AML/CFT systems are to be judged based upon an assessment of their effectiveness in addressing a country’s ML/FT risks. Are government interventions commensurate to the risks faced? For example, a country with a negligible financial sector and a high use of cash should probably not spend too much money and manpower on policing its securities sector. Conversely, a sophisticated financial center providing easily usable incorporation services should probably keep a close eye on company registration. As a participant in this process, the World Bank has been a strong proponent of this pivot toward risk and effectiveness. In our view, only such an approach can help countries make meaningful decisions regarding their priorities and their strategies.
Around the end December of every year, the pundits start coming out with their forecasts for 2014. This past December, the World Bank pundits predicted everything from girls outperforming boys in developing countries (girl power!) to the staggering idea that for Europe, 2014 will be a better year.
This year though, the World Bank’s Future Development Forecasts blog, included a prediction that caught these two political scientists by surprise— “as more and more economists point to the primary [sic] of politics in development, political scientists will wake up and wonder why they have been left out of the discussion.”
As the world’s self-appointed steering committee gathers in Davos, 2014 is already shaping up as a big year for inequality. The World Economic Forum’s ‘Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014’ ranks widening income disparities as the second greatest worldwide risk in the coming 12 to 18 months (Middle East and North Africa came top, since you ask).
So it’s great to see ‘Working for the Few’, a really excellent new Oxfam paper by Ricardo Fuentes and Nick Galasso, tackling an issue best summed up by US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in the aftermath of the Great Depression, ‘We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.’ i.e. the politics of inequality and redistribution.
The Brandeis quote is particularly relevant because this time really is different. After the 2008 global meltdown, we have not seen anything like the New Deal, in terms of redistribution or reform. The paper argues that this is because political capture by a small economic elite is much more complete this time around.
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
Access to reliable, accurate, and up-to-date data is crucial to the analysis work we do here at the World Bank. Making sure we have that data and making it as accessible as possible to others is equally as crucial. That's why we have developed a feature on the World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) platform that aggregates and analyzes trade outcomes.
For those who don’t yet use it, WITS is an online database aggregator where you can access major international merchandise trade, tariffs, and non-tariff data compilations with a click of the mouse. It’s free software that anyone—World Bank Group staff, policymakers, practitioners, researchers, academics—can use when working on trade and competitiveness issues around the world.
Our team here in the International Trade Unit, in collaboration with the Development Economics Data Group, developed a multi-functional “tool” to aggregate several indicators used to assess the trade competitiveness of a country. We call it the Trade Outcomes Indicators Tool.
Last week I attended the Gaidar Forum in Moscow. Yegor Gaidar was an economist who became the architect of the Russian market economy as deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation in 1992. Like Leszek Balcerowitz in Poland and Vaclav Klaus in Czechoslovakia, Gaidar was a pioneer of the shock therapy: rapid liberalization of prices; opening up of borders to allow free international trade; and privatization of capital. Gaidar died in 2009 at an age of 53. In his memory the Gaidar Forum was organized for the first time in 2010. This was the fifth time the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration organized this annual conference that brings together ministers, academics, and business people.
Right now, as you read this, wherever you are, we are in uncharted territory. Our global population of 7.1 billion is headed for more than 9 billion by 2050. With our growing numbers and aspirations for shared prosperity comes a growing demand for energy to power homes, businesses, industry and transport. Our continuing reliance on fossil fuels is generating pollution and a dangerously high amount of greenhouse gas emissions – this past summer, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere passed levels not seen in 3 million years.
If you were in Beijing last week, you felt the impact in your lungs: Just 16 days into the new year, the city woke up to its first “airpocalypse” of 2014, the latest in a series of dangerously high smog days. Beijing’s mayor announced plans the same day to cut coal use by 2.6 million tons and ban heavily polluting vehicles.
That was an important local step, and we are seeing forward-thinking cities and national governments make similar moves as they develop the architecture for a cleaner, low-carbon future.