Syndicate content

Public Sector and Governance

Railways are the future—so how can countries finance them?

Martha Lawrence's picture
Photo: Kavya Bhat/Flickr
As a railway expert working for the World Bank, I engage with many client countries that are looking to expand or upgrade their railway systems. Whenever someone pitches a railway investment, my first question is always, “What are your trains going to carry?” I ask this question because it is fundamental to railway financing. 

Railways are very capital intensive and increasingly need to attract financing from the private sector to be successful. That is why the World Bank recently updated its Railway Toolkit to include more information and case studies on railway financing. Here, in a nutshell are the key lessons about railway financing from this update. 

Sri Lanka at 70: Looking back and forward

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
A view from the Independence day parade.At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
A view from the 2018 Independence Day parade. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation. Credit: World Bank

Like many Sri Lankans across the country, I joined Sri Lanka’s 70th Independence Day festivities earlier this month. This was undoubtedly a joyful moment, and proof of the country’s dynamism and stability. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
 
The country’s social indicators, a measure of the well-being of individuals and communities, rank among the highest in South Asia and compare favorably with those in middle-income countries. In the last half-century, better healthcare for mothers and their children has reduced maternal and infant mortality to very low levels.
 
Sri Lanka’s achievements in education have also been impressive. Close to 95 percent of children now complete primary school with an equal proportion of girls and boys enrolled in primary education and a slightly higher number of girls than boys in secondary education.
 
The World Bank has been supporting Sri Lanka’s development for more than six decades. In 1954, our first project, Aberdeen-Laxapana Power Project, which financed the construction of a dam, a power station, and transmissions lines, was instrumental in helping the young nation meet its growing energy demands, boost its trade and develop light industries in Colombo, and provide much-needed power to tea factories and rubber plantations. In post-colonial Sri Lanka, this extensive electrical transmission and distribution project aimed to serve new and existing markets and improve a still fragile national economy.
 
Fast forward a few decades and Sri Lanka in 2018 is a far more prosperous and sophisticated country than it was in 1954 and, in many ways, has been a development success story. Yet, the island nation still faces some critical challenges as it strives to transition to another stage of its development and become a competitive upper middle-income country.
 
Notably, the current overreliance on the public-sector as the main engine for growth and investment, from infrastructure to healthcare, is reaching its limits.  With one of the world’s lowest tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios -- 12% in 2016, down from 24% in 1978 —Sri Lanka’s public sector is now facing serious budget constraints and the country needs to look for additional sources of finance to boost and sustain its growth.
 
As outlined in its Vision 2025, the current government has kickstarted an ambitious reform agenda to help the country move from a public investment to a more private investment growth model to enhance competitiveness and lift all Sri Lankans’ standards of living.
 
Now is the time to steer this vision into action. This is urgent as Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most protectionist countries and one of the hardest to start and run a business. As it happens, private foreign investment is much lower than in comparable economies and trade as a proportion of GDP has decreased from 88% in 2000 to 50% in 2016. Reversing this downward trend is critical for Sri Lanka to meet its development aspirations and overcome the risk of falling into a permanent “middle-income trap.”

PPP laws in Africa: confusing or clarifying?

Maude Vallée's picture



Between 2004 and 2017, some 30 African countries have adopted laws regarding Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). If we were to add to this list the countries that have implemented PPP policies, and those who are in the midst of drafting PPP laws, the tally would rise, leaving us with less than just 10 African countries that are entirely without a PPP framework.

What this tells us is that the calls by international financial institutions have been heard by decision-makers in Africa: a quality PPP legal framework will not only help identify successful projects, but it will guide those projects effectively and transparently towards closure, all the while ensuring development goals are met and investors are satisfied.

But how does reality measure up to the theory? How many projects, based on PPP law, have actually reached financial close? Given the time required to prepare a PPP, it is maybe too early to see PPP laws translated into concrete PPP projects, especially as more than 20 countries have in fact adopted their laws only in the last five years.

Maximizing finance for development works

Hartwig Schafer's picture
People in Saint-Louis, Senegal. © Ibrahima BA Sané/World Bank
People in Saint-Louis, Senegal. © Ibrahima BA Sané/World Bank


Massive investment is needed to meet the ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity by 2030. By some estimates it could cost as much as $4.5 trillion a year to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and obviously, we will not get there solely with public finance. And there’s the rub: Countries will only meet the SDGs and improve the lives of their citizens if they raise more domestic revenues and attract more private financing and private solutions to complement and leverage public funds and official development assistance. This approach is called maximizing finance for development, or MFD.

How to help more citizens participate in the global tax agenda

Andrew Wainer's picture
Photo: Mohammad Al-Arief/The World Bank.

Editor’s note: The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the World Bank Group, its Board of Directors or the governments they represent.

Even as domestic tax reform is in the political limelight, there is growing attention to taxation in the developing world and the role of citizens in shaping tax policy.

How much does it cost to create a job?

David Robalino's picture
Also available in: Español | Français 
A $10 million investment can actually create just a couple hundred direct jobs. / Photo: Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo / World Bank (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

Creating more and better jobs is central to our work at the World Bank and a shared goal for virtually all countries —developed and developing alike. But oftentimes the policy debate turns to the cost and effectiveness of programs and projects in creating jobs.
 
As an example, I recently found myself in the middle of a discussion regarding a development project aimed at creating employment:  one of the reviewers objected given that the cost per job created was too high. “More than $20,000 per job,” he said, comparing it to much lower numbers (between $500 and $3,000 per job) usually associated with active labor market programs such as training, job search assistance, wage subsidies, or public works.
 
But what is the rationale behind these numbers?

Making taxes work for the SDGs

Jan Walliser's picture
Also available in: Français
Graphic: World Bank Group

Taxation plays a fundamental role in effectively raising and allocating domestic resources for governments to deliver essential public services and achieve broader development goals.

Game-changers and whistle-blowers: taxing wealth

Jim Brumby's picture
Also available in: Français 

High and rising income inequality is a serious concern in many countries, as highlighted in the IMF’s recent Fiscal Monitor. Wealth, however, is distributed even more unequally than income, as in the picture below.

Maximizing finance for sustainable urban mobility

Daniel Pulido's picture
Photo: ITDP Africa/Flickr

The World Bank Group (WBG) is currently implementing a new approach to development finance that will help better support our poverty reduction and shared prosperity goals. This crucial effort, dubbed Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD), seeks to leverage the private sector and optimize the use of scarce public resources to finance development projects in a way that is fiscally, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
 
There are several reasons why cities and transport planners should pay close attention to the MFD approach. First, while the need for sustainable urban mobility is greater than ever before, the available financing is nowhere near sufficient—and the financing gap only grows wider when you consider the need for climate change adaptation and mitigation. At the same time, worldwide investment commitments in transport projects with private participation have fallen in the last three years and currently stand near a 10-year low. When private investment does go to transport, it tends to be largely concentrated in higher income countries and specific subsectors like ports, airports, and roads. Finally, there is a lot of private money earning low yields and waiting to be invested in good projects. The aspiration is to try to get some of that money invested in sustainable urban mobility.

How can we enhance competition in bus passenger urban transport?

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Photo: EMBARQ Brasil/Flickr

Também disponível em português.

While bus services are often planned and coordinated by public authorities, many cities delegate day-to-day operations to private companies under a concession contract. Local government agencies usually set fares and routes; private operators, on the other hand, are responsible for hiring drivers, running services, maintaining the bus fleet, etc. Within this general framework, the specific terms and scope of the contract vary widely depending on the local context.

Bus concessions are multimillion-dollar contracts that directly affect the lives of countless passengers every day. When done right, they can foster vigorous competition between bidders, improve services, lower costs, and generate a consistent cash flow. However, too often the concessions do not deliver on their promise and there is a perception across much of Latin America that authorities have been unable to manage these processes to maximize public benefits.

As several Latin American cities are getting ready to renew their bus concessions—including major urban centers like Bogotá, Santiago de Chile, and São Paulo—now is a good time to look back on what has worked, what has not, and think about ways to improve these arrangements going forward.

Pages