Countries in the South Asia Region (SAR) face a number of operational and economic challenges as they seek to keep up with rapidly growing electricity demands. Our analysis finds that increased regional electricity trade facilitated by expanded cross-border transmission interconnections among SAR countries can contribute significantly to alleviating these challenges. Cross-border electricity trade could save as much as US$94 billion (in present value terms) in the region during the 2015-2040 period. It would reduce the regional power sector CO2 emissions during the period by 8% even without pro-active measures to reduce CO2 or harmful local pollutants. Moreover, significantly increasing cross-border interconnection and trade will necessitate taking steps that inevitably will reduce substantial existing inefficiencies in national power systems in the region, as well.
Emerging technologies are transforming global logistics. The evidence is everywhere: Logistics companies are exploring autonomous fleets and “lights-out” warehousing, and are looking to Big Data for transport management and predictive analytics. Crowdsourcing start-ups are using a high-tech/asset-light business model. And e-brokerage platforms are providing real-time information from pickup to delivery.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Turning the Tide Against Cholera
New York Times
Two hundred years ago, the first cholera pandemic emerged from these tiger-infested mangrove swamps. It began in 1817, after the British East India Company sent thousands of workers deep into the remote Sundarbans, part of the Ganges River Delta, to log the jungles and plant rice. These brackish waters are the cradle of Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium that clings to human intestines and emits a toxin so virulent that the body will pour all of its fluids into the gut to flush it out. Water loss turns victims ashen; their eyes sink into their sockets, and their blood turns black and congeals in their capillaries. Robbed of electrolytes, their hearts lose their beat. Victims die of shock and organ failure, sometimes in as little as six hours after the first abdominal rumblings. Cholera probably had festered here for eons. Since that first escape, it has circled the world in seven pandemic cycles that have killed tens of millions.
The Link Between Internet Access and Economic Growth Is Not as Strong as You Think
Mark Zuckerberg recently published a manifesto about the future of Facebook and our increasingly technology-saturated world. In it, he argued “Connecting everyone to the internet is…necessary for building an informed community.” For those familiar with Zuckerberg’s statements, this is a familiar claim. He argues that not only should we connect everyone in the world to the internet, but that doing so is a necessary step in solving some of the planet’s most pernicious problems. Zuckerberg is not alone in this thinking. Huge sums of money have been invested in projects that connect the billions of people who lack an internet connection. These schemes tend to present digital connectivity as a mechanism to achieve key social and economic developmental goals. This is especially true in Africa–the part of the world with both the lowest incomes and rates of connectivity. Because of the vigor with which such claims are made, and the vast resources that tech companies are able to deploy, we decided to examine the actually existing evidence base that might support them. In a new paper, we set out to test those claims.
The global economy is stagnating, and uncertainty about its future is rising. These trends weigh heavily on countries that depend on the production and export of a small range of products, or that sell products in only a few overseas markets. Prices of the minerals and other basic commodities that dominate the exports of many poor countries have also declined sharply. All of this points up the need for diversification strategies that can deliver sustained, job intensive and inclusive growth.
The World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C), a joint practice of the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC), is working with a growing roster of client countries eager to achieve greater economic diversification. This is a worthy goal regardless of economic conditions, but especially so now, as developing countries with sector-dependent economies face mounting pressures.
Chile is an example of a diversified economy, exporting more than 2,800 distinct products to more than 120 different countries. Zambia, a country similarly endowed with copper resources, exports just over 700 products — one-fourth of Chile’s export basket — and these go to just 80 countries. Other low-income countries have similarly limited diversified economies. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Malawi, for example, export around 550 and 310 products, respectively. Larger countries that export oil, such as Nigeria (780 products) and Kazakhstan (540 products), have failed to substantially expand the range of products they produce and export.
AJG Simoes, CA Hidalgo. The Economic Complexity Observatory: An Analytical Tool for Understanding the Dynamics of Economic Development. Workshops at the Twenty-Fifth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence. (2011)
While the sluggish global economy is creating economic problems for traditional exports, other economic trends offer new routes and opportunities for poor countries to diversify. The trend toward the spatial splitting up of production across wide geographic areas, and the emergence and growth of regional and global value chains, offer new ways for developing countries to export tasks, services and other activities. Value chains offer developing countries a path out of the trap of having to specialize in whole industries, with all of the cost and risk that such a strategy entails.
It’s now been about a month since the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group launched TCdata360, our new platform for open trade and competitiveness data from the Bank and external sources. The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has included a mixture of the anticipated and the unexpected.
Egypt has been the most popular country page during this period, the indicator on the number of days to start a business has been the second most visited page (though it seems to be ceding its spot to the page on venture capital availability) and we have been struck by the number of people that have searched for information on countries that have laws against sexual harassment in the work place (it’s steadily been one of the top 10 most visited pages on the site). Our data stories have attracted attention as well, especially in social media and there has been consistent interest in the API.
The question now is: Where should we take TCdata360 from here? How does a platform grow after the initial excitement around its release has dissipated? How can you or your organization contribute to the growth of the platform?
Here are a few of our ideas at the moment:
- More data – we have a growing inventory of new datasets.
- Better user experience – we are tweaking several things, while keeping what people like (which is most of the site).
- More analytics – we have experimented with Datascoper, a tool to uncover hidden patterns in data, but work remains to make these tools more usable and meaningful.
- Better engagement with our users – we want to show off your work on the site. Tell us about the insightful work you do using our data; we will share it with all our users. And we are all ears about your ideas for other ways to collaborate.
- Continue contributing to the open data community – we plan to offer data literacy and other support; stay tuned for greater emphasis on applied data; we are working to make this and other data truly useful in an applied sense to governments, the private sector, and others.
- Better linkages with the open source world – we built the site on open source and want to share our work with the community; we are constantly looking for tools that we can either integrate into the site or that we should be using. Tell us about them.
Who are Spain's neighbors? Is Canada closer to Spain than Portugal? What about Estonia or Greece? The answer? Depends on the data you are looking at!
Earlier this week I crunched data based on a selected list of indicators from the new Open Trade and Competitiveness platform from the World Bank (TCdata360) and found some interesting trends. In 2009 Spain was closer to economies like Estonia, Belgium, France and Canada while 6 years later in 2015, Spain's closest neighbors were Greece and Portugal. How and when did this shift happen?
Other trends I spotted using the same data? It seems the Sub-Saharan region ranks the lowest in Ease of Doing Business, that in 2007 Israel held the record for R&D expenditure as % of GDP, while in the same year Malta topped FDI net inflows as % GDP, and that the largest annual GDP growth in the last 20 years occurred in Equatorial Guinea in 1997.
Figure 1: Dots represent values for an economy at a given point in time for years 1996 to 2016 overlaying their box-plot distributions. Colors correspond to geographical regions.
In the ongoing debate about the benefits of trade, we must not lose sight of a vital fact. Trade and global integration have raised incomes across the world, while dramatically cutting poverty and global inequality.
Within some countries, trade has contributed to rising inequality, but that unfortunate result ultimately reflects the need for stronger safety nets and better social and labor programs, not trade protection.
An instructor at the Savar EPZ training center in Dhaka, Bangladesh, helps young women being trained to make shirts. Photo Credit: © Dominic Chavez/The World Bank
Increasing economic prosperity for developing countries is related not only to rising trade, but also – and more important – to transforming the traditional composition of what they produce and export. In the world today, many developing countries strive to diversify away from exporting commodities toward higher-value-added goods and services.
The evolution of trade and investment flows over the last three decades shows that foreign direct investment (FDI) can be a powerful driver of exports, a creator of well-paid new jobs and a crucial source of financing. More important, FDI may become a very rapid and effective engine to promote the transfer of technology, know-how and new business practices, helping to raise productivity and setting a country on the course of convergence. This is particularly the case of efficiency-seeking FDI – that is, FDI that locates productive processes in a country seeking to enhance its ability to better compete in international markets-.
The benefits of FDI are further leveraged when local firms can catalyze the presence of foreign investors to connect to global and regional value chains (GVCs). As a result of new international firms investing in a host country, great new opportunities arise for local enterprises to supply the inputs – be it goods or services – that their international counterparts need.
This has been the experience of Bangladesh, where local suppliers have grown in tandem with foreign investors in the garment sector. It is through linkages with international investors that local firms can gradually be lured into producing new goods and services that, until then, were not produced in the host country. This is how economic diversification and greater value added are generated.
Multinational enterprises (MNEs) and their key partners (Tier 1 suppliers) are generally keen to source locally if a competitive local supplier can be found. However, they are also reluctant to absorb high search-and-find costs, and they will typically not invest in assisting local suppliers with upgrading efforts. Likewise, local firms are generally keen to supply to foreign firms, but are often not ready to make the necessary investments in technology and in processes to meet strict quality standards without a clear line of sight on potential payoff for such investment.
When it gained independence in 1965, Singapore was a low-income country with limited natural resources that lacked basic infrastructure, investment and jobs.
A few decades later, the picture couldn’t be more different. Singapore has become one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, due in large part to its emergence as the highest-performing logistics hub in the region (see World Bank Logistics Performance Index).
The numbers speak for themselves. Today, the small city-state is home to the world’s largest transshipment container port, linked to over 600 ports worldwide. Singapore Changi airport is voted the best internationally, and is served by about 6,800 weekly flights to 330 cities. Finally, the island nation’s trade value amounts to 3.5 times its GDP.
Singapore’s achievements did not happen by chance. They result from a combination of forward-looking public policy and extensive private sector engagement. This experience could provide some lessons to any developing country seeking to improve its logistics network. Let us look at three key factors of success.
- trade facilitation
- waterborne transport
- maritime transport
- air transport
- international trade
- cross-border trade
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Law and Regulation
- Global Economy
- Urban Development
- East Asia and Pacific
- Sustainable Communities