Despite hundreds of millions spent on more and better household surveys across Africa in recent decades, we only have a very rough idea about the levels and trends in income poverty and inequality in sub-Saharan Africa. Many reasons contribute to this unfortunate state of affairs.
Duty- and quota-free access for exports to global markets is something developing country trade negotiators have demanded for years. Few other “stroke-of-the-pen” measures could boost employment and reduce poverty in low income countries in such large numbers. For instance if the US removed tariffs on Bangladeshi garments – which average around 13%, but for some items are as high as 33% – then exports to the US could rise by $1.5 billion from the FY13 level of $5 billion, in turn generating employment for at least an additional half a million, primarily female, workers. Examples of other countries facing US tariffs include Cambodia (12.8% average tariff rate on its exports to the US), India (4.01%), Indonesia (5.73%), and Vietnam (7.41%). Progress in trade facilitation would likely have even greater pay-offs to growth and employment, but these require structural reforms and investments, while the decision to remove tariffs is a simpler, “stroke-of-the-pen” measure.
Development is not easy; making it sustainable, even more difficult. Take for example road traffic rules. We can build better roads and install traffic lights, but cannot guarantee adherence to traffic rules. Even with laws in place, people may be more willing to pay fines than stop at a red light or wear seat belts. How do you make people value their own lives or their betterment? To succeed, we have to motivate people rather than just educate them.
South Asia’s Commerce Ministers meet in Thimphu on July 24. Getting there would not have been easy for many of them, with no direct flights between Thimphu and four of the seven capitals. In June, when some of us convened for a regional meeting in Kathmandu, our Pakistani colleagues had to take a 20 hour flight from Karachi to Dubai in order to get to Kathmandu! This is symptomatic of the overall state of economic engagement within South Asia—in trade in goods and services, foreign direct investment and tourism.
South Asian countries’ trade policies remain inward-looking compared to other regions, and there are even bigger barriers to trade within the region. Today, South Asia today is less economically integrated than it was 50 years ago. Figure 1 below shows that intra-regional trade in South Asia accounts for less than 5 percent of total trade, lower than any other region.
The world’s 45 Least Developed Countries that are not oil producers (non-oil LDCs) are exporting less and less in the global market place. Between 1985 and 2012, the world market share of non-oil LDCs’ exports of goods and services fell from 1.2 percent to 0.8 percent—all while their share in world population rose from 7.5 percent to 9.9 percent.
The 2005 Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative was designed to arrest this decline. Yet, LDCs’ trade costs continue to fall less rapidly than those of their competitors.
Clearly, it’s time to re-evaluate the AFT initiative.
A new e-book does just that, and, contrary to what some may think, concludes that the initiative has been beneficial. But due to a collective failure to clearly articulate its results, the achievements of the AFT initiative are now at risk as development budgets come under increasing pressure.
Salauddin, a farmer, migrated to Dhaka (the capital) from a rural area of Bangladesh because of severe drought. He is now one of half million rickshaw-pullers. He spends only tk 100 a day and saves the rest; when having saved tk3000 (usually in a three-week time), he goes home to see his wife and children. His wife says, “thanks to this money, I can now cook this meal.”
The World Bank’s KNOMAD (Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development) held a conference on internal migration and urbanization in Dhaka on April 30 – May 1, 2014, in collaboration with the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, University of Dhaka. The conference aimed to better understand the multifaceted aspects of internal migration and found the following.
Little research currently exists on a vulnerability line that distinguishes the poor population from the population that is not poor but that still faces significant risk of falling back into poverty. A new World Bank policy research working paper by Hai-Anh H. Dang and Peter F. Lanjouw attempts to fill this gap by proposing vulnerability lines that can be straightforwardly estimated with panel or cross-sectional household survey data, in rich- and poor-country settings. These vulnerability lines offer a means to broaden traditional poverty analysis and can also assist with the identification of the middle class or resilient population groups. Empirical illustrations are provided using panel data from the United States (Panel Study of Income Dynamics) and Vietnam (Vietnam Household Living Standards Survey) for the period 2004-2008 and cross-sectional data from India (National Sample Survey) for the period 2004-2009. The estimation results indicate that in Vietnam and India during this time period, the population living in poverty and the middle class have been falling and expanding, respectively, while the opposite has been occurring in the United States.