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Reflections from the field: On the road with communities in Myanmar and Laos (Part 1)

Susan Wong's picture

So I just returned from a terrific mission to Myanmar and Laos, two countries experiencing strong annual growth rates, and both facing challenges of making rapid growth inclusive and just for all its citizens.

How we made #OpenIndia

Ankur N's picture

Cross posted from the End Poverty in South Asia blog

open india

It has been a season ripe with new ideas and shifts in the open data conversation. At the Cartagena Data Festival in April, the call for a country-led data revolution was loud and clear. Later in June at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa there was an emphasis on the use of open data-beyond mere publishing.

Mulling on these takeaways, a logical question to ask may be: what would a country-focused data project that aims to put data to use look like?

How can Russia grow out of recession?

Birgit Hansl's picture

Russia’s economic woes continue: the recession deepened in the first half of 2015, severely impacting households, while the economy continued to adjust to the 2014 terms-of-trade shock, which saw oil prices being halved within a few months. In addition, investment demand has contracted for a third consecutive year.

Economic policy uncertainty, arising from an unpredictable geopolitical situation and the ongoing sanctions, caused private investment to decline rapidly as capital costs rose and consumer demand evaporated.

The record drop in consumer demand was driven by a sharp contraction in real wages, which fell by an average of 8.5% in the first six months of 2015 - illustrating the severity of the recession. The erosion of real incomes significantly increased the poverty rate and exacerbated the vulnerability of households in the lower 40% of the income distribution.

So, if oil prices remain low, how can Russia grow out of its recession?

In a snap: What the World Bank is doing in South Asia

Alexander Ferguson's picture
Afghan Woman in factory
Afghan woman in factory. Credit: World Bank

Need to know how sustained infrastructure investments could boost Bangladesh’s economy? How the delay in implementing key reforms on the domestic front, a weak trade performance and the recent slowdown in rural wage growth pose risks to growth in India? Or how Pakistan could achieve sustained and inclusive growth through reforms in energy and taxation, and increasing investment?

There is a one-stop place to find out what the World Bank is doing in your country and what it thinks about economic prospects there.

Making cities competitive – What will it take?

Megha Mukim's picture

Cities are the future. They are where people live and work. They are where growth happens and where innovation takes place. But they are also poles of poverty and, much too often, centers of unemployment.

How can we unleash the potential of cities? How do we make them more competitive? These are urgent questions. Questions, as it turns out, with complex answers – that could potentially have huge returns for job creation and poverty reduction.

Cities vary enormously when it comes to their economic performance. While 72 percent of cities grow faster than their countries, these benefits do not happen uniformly across all cities. The top 10 percent of cities increase GDP almost three times more than the remaining 90 percent. They create jobs four to five times faster. Their residents enjoy higher incomes and productivity, and they are magnets for external investment.
We’re not just talking about the “household names”among global cities: Competitive cities are often secondary cities, many of them exhibiting success amidst adversity – some landlocked and in lagging regions within their countries. For instance, Saltillo (Mexico), Meknes (Morocco), Coimbatore (India), Gaziantep (Turkey), Bucaramanga (Colombia), and Onitsha (Nigeria) are a few examples of cities that have been competitive in the last decade.
So how do cities become competitive? We define competitive cities as those that successfully help firms and industries create jobs, raise productivity and increase the incomes of citizens. A team at the World Bank Group spent the last 18 months investigating, creating and updating our knowledge base for the benefit of WBG’s clients. In our forthcoming report, “Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth,”* we find that the recipe includes several basic ingredients.

In the long term, cities moving up the income ladder will transform their economies, changing from “market towns” to “production centers” to “financial and creative centers,” increasing efficiencies and productivity at each stage. But economic data clearly shows there are large gains to be had even without full-scale economic transformation: Cities can move from $2,500 to $20,000 in per capita income while still remaining a “production center.”  In such cases, cities become more competitive at what they already do, finding niche products and markets in tradable goods and services. Competitive cities are those that manage to attract new firms and investors, while still nurturing established businesses and longtime residents. 
What sort of policies do competitive cities use? We find that leading cities focus their energies on leveraging both economy-wide and sector-specific policies. In practice, we see how successful cities create a favorable business climate and target individual sectors for pro-active economic development initiatives. They use a combination of policies focused on cross-cutting issues such as land, capital markets and infrastructure, while not losing focus on the needs of different industries and firms. The crucial factor is consultation, collaboration and partnerships with the private sector. In fact, success also involves building coalitions for growth with neighbors and other tiers of government.

Bill Easterly and the denial of inconvenient truths

Brian Levy's picture

The Tyranny of Experts book coverIn his 2014 book, The Tyranny of Experts, Bill Easterly uses his rhetorical gifts to make the case for ‘free development’. In so doing, he takes his trademark blend of insight and relentlessness to a new level. But in this moment of history that has been described by democracy champion, Larry Diamond as a “democracy recession”[i], is it helpful to argue by taking no prisoners and not letting inconvenient truths get in the way?

Easterly, to be sure, communicates powerfully two big and important ideas. The first is that, as per his title, behind a seemingly technocratic approach to development are some inconvenient political realities. As he puts it:

The implicit vision in development today is that of well-intentioned autocrats advised by technical experts…. The word technocracy itself is an early twentieth century coinage that means ‘rule by experts’” (p.6)

In surfacing the implausible assumptions which underlie a world view of ‘rule by experts’, Easterly does us a service. One cannot engage effectively with today’s difficult realities on the basis of a vision of decision-making which ignores the inconvenient truths of self-seeking ambition, of contestation over ends among competing factions, and of imbalances of power which marginalize the interests of large segments of society. (Of course, as this essay will explore, many of these difficult realities arise – in different ways – in both predatory authoritarian and messily democratic settings.)

The second powerful idea is The Tyranny of Experts paean to freedom – “a system of political and economic rights in which many political and economic actors will find the right actions to promote their own development”.  (pp. 215-216). With eloquent libertarian rhetoric of a kind which Ayn Rand would no doubt have applauded, Easterly argues that:

we must not let caring about material suffering of the poor change the subject from caring about the rights of the poor”. (p.339)

Staying the Course in Mongolia: 14 years institutionalizing community participation

Helene Carlsson Rex's picture
In development we want things to go accordingly to plan.  We look for tools, guidelines and best practices in our quest for results and impact. But we also know that development is not an exact science and things do not always go according to plan.  Changes in government or an economic downturn can quickly make a project design irrelevant.

But in some cases, it does go (more or less) accordingly to plan despite bumps in the road along the way.  One such example is the Sustainable Livelihoods Program series in Mongolia, which on September 17, 2015 launched its third and final phase.

Back in 2002, after a series of particularly harsh winters that killed one-third of the livestock in Mongolia and added even more strain to an already impoverished rural population, the World Bank decided to support a new approach to sustainable livelihoods. At that time, the country had little history of community participation in local development planning, and few rural finance options.  

The vision was to place investment funds at the local level and to give the communities a strong voice in the allocation of these funds. Because of the risks associated with the severe winters in Mongolia, pastoral risk management and winter preparedness were to be strengthened. And with a history of inefficient central planning, supporting a policy shift towards greater fiscal decentralization was very important.

This vision and core principles were translated into the design of the three-part Sustainable Livelihoods Series, which included piloting, scaling-up and institutionalization phases.

How we made #OpenIndia

Ankur Nagar's picture

open india

It has been a season ripe with new ideas and shifts in the open data conversation. At the Cartagena Data Festival in April, the call for a country-led data revolution was loud and clear. Later in June at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa there was an emphasis on the use of open data-beyond mere publishing.

Mulling on these takeaways, a logical question to ask may be: what would a country-focused data project that aims to put data to use look like?

Have you tried Open India?

A few months earlier, inspired by the “Digital India” vision, a small but agile team led by the India Team at the World Bank was working on Open India.  It’s a live, open platform for engaging with and tracking the why, what, and how of the World Bank Group’s work in India, within the context of the development challenges that India faces. At the heart of this process was data from this vast country and equally important “design thinking” to solve a clear problem.

Here is a glimpse at the journey of this in-house startup. We hope it will add to the evolving data conversation, and help make the case for design to be a part of it.  These are our lessons-learned from our journey as World Bank intrapreneurs.

Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges
Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges with the Wo... - The Open India app connects the dots between every public and private sector activity of the World Bank Group in India, against the context of the vast development challenges that the country faces. Use this app to track the World Bank Group’s work in your state and the development issues of your interest, and provide your ideas and feedback.

Posted by World Bank India on Friday, October 16, 2015

Pitch like a startup

India has become one of the fastest growing economies in the last decade, but remains home to a third of the world's poor. Its development challenges are massive: there is a huge infrastructure gap, it is urbanizing at an astonishing pace, and the population is set to cross 1.5 billion. The World Bank Group's Country Partnership Strategy offers an analysis and a plan to tackle these challenges. It covers a portfolio of over $25 billion, and provides a clear results chain to track the strategy’s progress.

Global dialogue bolsters World Bank engagement with Indigenous Peoples

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ sustainable development is critical to meeting the World Bank’s twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the countries in which they live. The recent International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty both helped draw attention to the 350 million Indigenous Peoples in the world who:
  • Are culturally distinct societies and communities – the land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, and economies;
  • Are among the most disadvantaged populations in the world, representing roughly 4.5 percent of the global population but more than 10 percent of the poor; and 
  • Even within their own traditional territories – which hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity – they legally own less than 11 percent of the land.
The World Bank is working actively and globally with Indigenous Peoples on a number of issues directly affecting them, and seeks to position marginalized groups such as the Indigenous Peoples at the center of the development agenda.

It should be recognized, however, that improving the conditions for Indigenous Peoples is not an easy task. Indigenous Peoples are often found in remote and isolated regions with poor access to social services and economic infrastructure. They also often suffer from multiple dimensions of exclusion. Furthermore, standard development projects have shown limitations in areas with Indigenous Peoples, particularly if they are not designed and implemented with the active participation of the indigenous communities.

A peek at the media coverage of SDGs: What is it telling us?

Mauricio Ríos's picture

Pope Arrives in General Assembly Hall for His AddressThe United Nations General Assembly recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York in the midst of great expectation and hype. The 17 SDGs, with 169 specific targets, are now becoming the road map for governments and the international development community for the next 15 years.

Now that all the publicity and excitement are starting to settle down, it seems opportune to look at the media coverage of the SDGs and developing countries to get a sense of how that coverage has played out over the past few weeks, and what some of the insights are that we can learn from for the way forward. This coverage mainly includes articles from various publications, websites, and blog posts in the English language. It does not include social media statistics from Tweeter or Facebook.  

An analysis of this media coverage featuring the key words “SDGs” and “developing countries” show that, over the past three months, more than 2,400 articles mentioned these two key words somewhere in the text of the articles. The analysis, using the Newsplus database, covers the period July 8-October 8. It shows that almost a quarter of that coverage (more than 600 entries) took place during the last week of September when the UN meetings were held. However, the second week of July, right before the summer break, was also active in terms of SDG-related coverage, signaling an important communications effort in the lead up to the UN September meetings.

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