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Social Development

Drifting Toward Plutocracy: Inexorable Concentration of Capital Undermines the Drive for 'Shared Prosperity'

Christopher Colford's picture

Like seismic waves rippling outward after a tectonic shift, reverberations are roiling the economic-policy landscape after the U.S. launch of the groundbreaking new analysis by Thomas Piketty, the scholar from the Paris School of Economics whose landmark tome – “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” – has newly jolted the economics profession.

Any Washingtonian or World Bank Group staffer who somehow missed the news of Piketty’s celebrated series of speeches and seminars last week – in Washington, New York and Boston – received an unmistakable signal this week about what an important intellectual breakthrough Piketty has achieved. President Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday cited Piketty while putting the issue of economic inequality at the top of his list of priorities during his review of the Spring Meetings of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Noting that he was already about halfway through reading Piketty’s “Capital,” President Kim sent a clear message that the skewed global distribution of wealth, as analyzed by Piketty and emphasized by many officials at the Bank and Fund's semiannual conference, should be top-of-mind for policy-watchers at the Bank and beyond – indeed, at every institution that hopes to promote shared prosperity.

Piketty’s scholarship is now receiving widespread acclaim as a landmark in economic analysis, and is being recognized both for its “exhaustive fact-based research” and its sweeping historical perspective. More of a patient dissection of hard data than a political roadmap, Piketty’s book has quickly become the subject of multiple praiseworthy reviews, notably in the New York Times and the Financial Times. One usually level-headed Bloomberg View analyst, recoiling from the “rapturous reception” accorded to the book, may have gone slightly overboard this week in asserting that Piketty's insights had been greeted by American liberals with “erotic intensity.”

Predictably, Piketty's book has also quickly become the target – “Piketty Revives [Karl] Marx,” blared a Wall Street Journal headline; “Marx Rises Again,” warned the New York Times’ lonely conservative scold – of the whack-a-mole ideological purists in laissez-faire Op-Ed columns, who forever seem tempted to equate modern-day liberalism with long-gone Leninism. Eager to publish denunciations of any idea, however modest, that might justify (heaven forfend) tax increases on stratospheric income-earners and the top-fraction-of-the-One Percent, the free-market fundamentalists on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board – unabashed cheerleaders for plutocracy – have opened up one of their trademark barrages via their Op-Ed columns (“This book is less a work of economic analysis than a bizarre ideological screed”; “The professor ought to read ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Darkness at Noon’ ”). The Journal's jihad clearly aims to demean or discredit anyone who might flirt with such Piketty-style notions as restoring greater progressivity to the tax code. (Egad: Progressive taxation? Next stop: Bolshevism.)

Enhancing Service Delivery in Conflict Contexts: Lessons from South Asia

Maria Correia's picture



More than 1.5 billion people today reside in countries affected by violence and conflict, most - if not all - of which also suffer from inadequate and poor access to basic services. By 2030, it is estimated that about 40 percent of the world’s poor will be living in such environments, where each consecutive year of organized violence will continue to slow down poverty reduction by nearly one percentage point.
 
A large portion of this group presently resides in conflict-affected parts of South Asia, a region that is home to 24 percent of the world’s population and about half the world’s poor.
 
Despite such challenging circumstances, research shows that in many settings, development aid is indeed working - albeit with frustrating inconsistency. 
 
The 2011 World Development Report recognizes the strong link between security and development outcomes in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. However, what the evidence is yet to show us is how exactly do you get the job done right?

Youth Employment in Egypt and Tunisia vs. Jordan and Morocco Three Years After the Arab Awakening

Yassin Sabha's picture


December 17 marked the third anniversary of the Arab Awakening. On that date, three years ago, Mohammed Bouzazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid,Tunisia. The political tsunami that has shaken Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria is well known. What is less known is the impact that the Arab Awakening has had on Arab youth. They were the driving force behind the revolution, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia. However, youth are far from having reaped the fruits in either country.

Healthily Growing in Bangladesh: Cash Transfers Encourage Health Checkups and School Attendance

Johannes Zutt's picture

The biggest daily struggle for 28 year old mother of two Sima Begum, is feeding her young children and keeping them healthy.  Nutrition is a key challenge not only for Sima, living in a slum in Narayanganj, but for women across Bangladesh and South Asia.  In fact, wasting and stunting are among the most stubborn health challenges facing the children of this region.

For the last 15 months, Sima has started receiving nutritional advice as well as a small cash transfer to help raise healthy children. Through a pilot cash-transfer program supported by the Rapid Social Response Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), her 10 year old son Faisal, is eligible for a Tk 800 ($10) school stipend and her daughter Shakal, 5, for a Tk 800 income transfer.  Sima uses the stipends to feed Shakal a healthier diet and to pay for Faisal’s tuition, school books and uniform.

In order to receive these stipends Sima has to ensure that Faisal goes to school and that Shakal is brought every month to the community center near her house at New Zimkhana, where her growth can be monitored. The growth monitoring is simple:
 

Psychological First Aid for Sri Lanka

Ananda Galappatti's picture



Major crises like wars and disasters affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Sri Lanka itself has experienced the devastating consequences of a brutal 30-year war, violent insurrection and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Whilst mental health and psychosocial services have evolved to help survivors of these crises to cope with and recover from these impacts, it has often been a challenge to providing effective support at the scale required and in a timely manner.
 
For some affected people, the mental health and psychosocial consequences can be serious and long-lasting.  However, for others, access to appropriate material and social support can bolster their ability to cope with the losses and hardships created by disaster and conflict.  Given the limited specialized human resources available for mental health and psychosocial support in low and middle-income settings around the world – including in Sri Lanka – it is vital to develop approaches that can strengthen families’ and communities’ own capacity for resilience in the face of adversity.

Syrian Crisis: Seeing Conflict Through Art

Web Team's picture


After 3 years of war, themes of fragmentation, fatigue, and bloodshed all come across in the work of Syrian artists currently being exhibited at the World Bank.

Collectively, their paintings convey a sense of the internal turmoil caused by external violence, paintings that hint at conflict: the skeleton beneath the skin, a fractured womb, being caught in a trap like a fly, the scarlet gashes of torn flesh, and sinister handcuffs, to name a few subjects.

Join us April 9th, 2014, for the opening of the art exhibition featuring 35 paintings by 15 Syrian artists who were given the time and space to work at an artist residence in Lebanon.
Get a glimpse of the paintings here.

Want to Join the Movement to End Poverty? Take It On!

Michelle Pabalan's picture



Remember when you were a kid and everyone asked: “What do you want to become when you grow up?” What did you answer? Have you fulfilled your dreams?

Most of us aspire to live our lives to the fullest; to develop our talents; to make a difference in the world.  Sometimes we may feel lost in the great scheme of things. But as the World Bank Group’s Jim Yong Kim points out: The most successful movements to change the world started with a small group of like-minded people. Think of the movements to find a treatment for AIDS, to promote human rights or to ensure gender equality.
 

Poland Scores High on Shared Prosperity Progress

Laura Tuck's picture

Laura Tuck, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia region, discusses her trip to Poland, its economy, progress in boosting shared prosperity, and the World Bank's partnership with the country.

 

In Lebanon, Time and Space for Syrian Artists to Paint

Raghad Mardini's picture
Art Residence in Aley, Lebanon

After the situation in Syria deteriorated, around October 2011, thousands of Syrians fled to Lebanon, among them many young emerging artists. With the difficult conditions and emotional trauma, artists had to take jobs in construction and in restaurants instead of creating art. Given the situation and my belief in the importance of art in hard times, the idea of an artists’ residence in the town of Aley, or the Art Residence in Aley (ARA), arose.

Apr 4, 2014: This Week in #SouthAsiaDev

Liana Pistell's picture
We've rounded up 18 tweets, posts, links, and +1's on South Asia-related development news, innovation, and social good that caught our eye this week. Countries included: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. For regular #SouthAsiaDev updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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