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December 2010

Talking development in two hundred years of books

Martin Ravallion's picture

  Photo: istockphoto.com
How long have we been talking about “economic development”? And what about concepts like “economic growth,” “poverty” and “inequality”? How old are they in the literature, and how has the frequency of their use changed over time?

We can now answer such questions thanks to a new software tool, the Google Books Ngram Viewer, introduced in a research paper by Jean-Baptiste Michel and others (13 authors are listed, plus the Google Books Team); the paper has just been published in the journal Science, and was picked up in the New York Times. The authors have formed a corpus of over 500 billion words (360 billion in English) from over 5 million books spanning 1800-2000.

International capital flows: Final picture from 2009

Shahrokh Fardoust's picture
 Photo: Istockphoto.com

As snow covers ground in Washington, D.C., debt markets swoon, and another year comes to a close, it seems like a good time to look at what actually happened to international capital flows to developing countries last year and what that might portend for flows in 2010, as this year’s numbers will be finalized in coming months.

At a time when the global economy has seen the most severe slowdown since the end of WWII, capital flows to the developing world—including private flows (debt and equity) and official capital flows (loans and grants from all sources)—are in an overall slump, well below their level in 2007 ($1.1 trillion). According to the just-published Global Development Finance: External Debt of Developing Countries, which contains detailed data on the external debt of 128 developing countries for 2009, net capital flows to these countries fell by 20 percent from $744 billion in 2008 to $598 billion in 2009. 

The Great Recession – Lessons from 10 Countries

Vamsee Kanchi's picture

How did developing countries fare during the crisis and what are their medium term prospects? These questions are at least partly answered in a new book covering 10 countries. Titled 'The Great Recession and the Developing Countries: Economic Impact and Growth Prospects,’ the book analyzes the  growth before, during and after the crisis of Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and Vietnam.

The book’s editor, Mustapha Nabli, estimates that the average potential growth rate for the ten countries before the financial crisis was about 6 percent.  Unlike the overheated financial sector, pre-crisis trade and remittance levels were sustainable.
Once the crisis hit, however, less diversified countries really felt the heat. Their financial sectors eventually recovered, but trade remained low, thus adversely affecting their growth.  13.6 percent of Turkey’s 2009 GDP, for example, was shaved off during the financial crisis.  Possibly this was due in part to fears left over from past financial crises.

Growth and Development Nuts and Bolts for the G-20

Shahrokh Fardoust's picture
 Photo: Istcokphoto.com

In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, many observers thought that the G-20 had a chance to succeed in the development arena where the G-8 foundered. Expectations were high that the G-20’s wider legitimacy and fresh remit would result in breakthrough solutions to knotty problems, from health pandemics to global warming. Yet the reality was that the G-20 Working Group on Development was pragmatic and selected a somewhat narrower range of priorities to focus on and many of the issues were ones that grew out of regional or national priorities. That is how the real world works—by consensus and stakeholder collaboration.

At the book launch for Postcrisis Growth and Development: A Development Agenda for the G-20Moisés Naím and Arvind Subramanian, both astute observers of trends in globalization, expressed disappointment that the G-20 development agenda didn't devote more energy to big ‘global public goods’ issues. Moreover, they noted a failure to grapple with the biggest risks facing the development community, such as illicit financial flows or climate change.

Open Data and Public Sector Debt

Shaida Badiee's picture

The volume of public domestic debt issued in developing countries has grown substantially in recent years, but consistent data on the domestic debt of developing countries have not been generally available until now. As part of the Open Data Initiative, the World Bank is launching an online, quarterly, Public Sector Debt database developed in partnership with the IMF, which will allow researchers and policymakers to explore questions about debt management in a comprehensive manner. The database promotes consistency and comparability across countries by standardizing the treatment of public sector debt, valuation methods, and debt instruments, and by identifying, where possible, the debt of central, state, and local governments as well as extra-budgetary agencies and funds.

International Open Data Hack Day: What Are You Looking For?

Aleem Walji's picture

As December 4th approaches, I’m getting excited for the International Open Data Hackathon and even more excited to see World Bank challenges and data featured in an event that will span 50 cities (and counting ) over 6 continents.  It’s thrilling to consider what hackers and users working together might mash-up and what role we (as data providers) can play in giving people access to clean and interoperable data sets for their using. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

Having recently traveled in India and after meeting development folks of various stripes from economists in Delhi to social entrepreneurs in Hyderabad to geeks in Bangalore , I’m struck again by how important local data remains. It’s one thing to talk about global economic trends and macro indicators but quite another to understand what’s happening in one Indian state, say Andra Pradesh, compared to its neighbors. Imagine a citizen group comparing rainfall data between states, at the district level, compared to crop yields over two decades. That’s when things get interesting and potentially useful to users.