Thanks to Thomas Piketty, we’ve heard a lot this year about rising inequality. And with just over a year to go before the MDG ‘window’ closes, we’ve also heard a lot about the ‘post-2015 agenda’. In a paper with Leander Buisman that just came out in the World Bank Research Observer, we bring these two themes together and ask: “Were the poor left behind by the health MDGs?” Influenced perhaps by all the talk of rising income inequality, there are certainly plenty of pessimistic folks out there who think that health inequalities, too, are on the rise; that the better off are likely to have seen much faster improvements in MDG indicators than the poor.
Under-investment in infrastructure can cripple lives. Across the world, 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity, 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation, and a further 2.5 billion rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking. Building adequate infrastructure is a vital tool of social development. But it is also a crucial underpinning of economic growth. McKinsey estimates that the world needs to invest $57 trillion in infrastructure between 2013 and 2030 simply to keep up with projected global GDP growth. That’s more than the total estimated value of the infrastructure already on the ground today.
The 2014 edition of the Human Development Report was released yesterday. The latest report focuses on promoting people’s choices and protecting human development achievements.
LinkedIn’s Economic Confidence Outlook predicts scattered optimism for the future of the global economy. The survey, conducted in the first quarter of 2014, of more than 14,000 senior business leaders on LinkedIn in 16 different countries around the world is designed to gauge leaders’ confidence level in the global economy and their country.
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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.
Jason Furman, appointed by President Barack Obama as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs, spoke yesterday at the World Bank about inclusive growth in the US. Furman said that average income for the bottom 90% grew strongly across all OECD countries starting in the 1950s, but has flattened in the US since the ‘70s. Furthermore, Furman added that capital income contributes more to overall inequality towards the upper end of the American income distribution.
Furman also pointed out that starting in 2000, labor share in US income started falling, largely because of globalization.
The following post is the first in a series exploring 'internet for development,' the theme of the World Bank's upcoming World Development Report 2016.
Why should we invest in internet access in developing countries when there are more important problems like providing clean toilets? That was one of the questions posed to Vint Cerf following his recent presentation on Emerging Internet Trends that will Shape the Global Economy here at the World Bank. Vint is one of the “Fathers of the Internet”. In the 1970s he was part of a small team that developed the protocols and standards that guide the open, global communication system that we all rely on every day. Today he is Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist and a preeminent thinker about the current state and future of the internet.
Vint’s presentation was the second seminar organized by the World Development Report 2016 (WDR): Internet for Development. This World Development Report (WDR) will look at the impact of the internet – in a broad sense – on businesses, people and governments. And it will evaluate policies in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and in complementary sectors that will help countries receive the highest social and economic returns from those investments. In his wide-ranging talk and in a meeting with the WDR team, Vint touched on all of those issues. Here are a few of his thoughts.
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.
An abundance of natural resources is both an opportunity and a challenge for developing countries. A number of resource-rich, low-income countries receive amounts of foreign aid that are similar to or larger than their actual or potential revenues from natural resources. A new policy research working paper by Octave Keutiben and me develops a growth model to look at some ways in which the donors may help governments of such countries to use their resource revenues productively and minimize the magnitude of risks created by resource rents. The paper’s key conclusion is that making aid countercyclical helps to achieve higher economic growth, and so does conditioning disbursements on enhancement of public capital.
Internet pioneer and Google's Vice President Vinton G. Cerf will talk about the major emerging trends and threats about the Internet that will dramatically shape the global economy on July 14, 2014 at the World Bank headquarters. Watch the event live here.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg writes in The Wall Street Journal about global internet access and its impact on poverty reduction.
The IMF has a new, Global Housing Markets database that tracks developments in housing markets around the world.
Last week I had the privilege—and pleasure—of delivering a lecture series at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management. The KDI School is an educational arm of the Korea Development Institute, Korea’s leading and highly regarded economic policy think tank. I was much impressed by the KDI School’s program, which aims to foster leadership in economic development and public policy. Course participants are drawn from a variety of public institutions in emerging and developing economies. The School’s philosophy places a strong emphasis on the sharing of development experience among participants, peer learning, and dissemination of best practice. Korea’s own development history is rich in lessons for public policy, which the program seeks to share with participants drawn from across the globe. The School has positioned itself as an international hub for sharing knowledge on development among policymakers and practitioners, and its mission receives generous support from the Korean Government.
Smallholder agriculture in many developing countries has remained largely self-financed. However, improved productivity for attaining greater food security requires better access to institutional credit. Past efforts to extend institutional credit to smaller farmers has failed for several reasons, including subsidized operation of government-aided credit schemes. Thus, recent efforts to expand credit for smallholder agriculture that rely on innovative credit delivery schemes at market prices have received much policy interest. However, thus far the impacts of these efforts are not fully understood.
A new World Bank policy research working paper by Bill Battaile, Richard Chisik, and Harun Onder shows how Dutch disease effects may arise solely from a shift in demand following a natural resource discovery. The natural resource wealth increases the demand for non-tradable luxury services due to non-homothetic preferences. Labor that could be used to develop other non-resource tradable sectors is pulled into these service sectors. As a result, manufactures and other tradable goods are more likely to be imported, and learning and productivity improvements accrue to the foreign exporters.
The Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rates released in April 2014, based on the 2011 round of the International Comparison Program (ICP), entail some seemingly dramatic revisions to price levels and real incomes across the world. Looking back over the last three ICP rounds, back to 1993, it feels like we have been on an “ICP roller coaster” with falls in the estimated real incomes of many developing countries up to 2005 and then rises in 2011. The 2011 revisions have been taken to suggest substantially less poverty and inequality in the world than the 2005 round had implied. If we believe these new PPPs then the economic map of the world is quite different to what we thought. But can they be believed? A public debate has been generated by the new PPPs.
On July 9, 2014 Martin Ravallion (Department of Economics, Georgetown University) will shed more light on this ongoing debate at the Poverty and Applied Macro seminar hosted by the World Bank's research department.
Traffic congestion, air pollution, accidents – the negative externalities from car transport are not just a popular field of economic research, but also a daily arduous reality for millions of commuters around the world. However, there is more: carbon emissions and climate change may be a less visible externality from road transport, but the economic and social costs will be substantial and borne at a global scale.
When dealing with such externalities, pricing instruments (such as carbon or fuel taxes) are the policy response favored by economists: if car users paid the full cost of driving, they would adjust their driving practices and thus reduce the negative environmental and social impacts.
In a new World Bank policy research working paper, Branko Milanovic and I assess the impact of overall inequality, as well as inequality among the poor and among the rich, on the growth rates along various percentiles of the income distribution. The analysis uses micro-census data from U.S. states covering the period from 1960 to 2010. The paper finds evidence that high levels of inequality reduce the income growth of the poor and, if anything, help the growth of the rich.
A new World Bank policy research working paper by Andrei Levchenko, Claudio Raddatz, and me analyzes theoretically and empirically the impact of comparative advantage in international trade on fertility. It builds a model in which industries differ in the extent to which they use female relative to male labor and countries are characterized by Ricardian comparative advantage in either female labor or male labor intensive goods. The main prediction of the model is that countries with comparative advantage in female labor intensive goods are characterized by lower fertility. This is because female wages and therefore the opportunity cost of children are higher in those countries.
Natural resources are being discovered in more countries, both rich and poor. Many of the new and aspiring resource exporters are low-income countries that are still receiving substantial levels of foreign aid. Resource discoveries open up enormous opportunities, but also expose producing countries to huge trade and fiscal shocks from volatile commodity markets if their exports are highly concentrated. A large literature on the "resource curse" shows that these are damaging unless countries manage to cushion the effects through countercyclical policy. It also shows that the countries least likely to do so successfully are those with weaker institutions, and these are most likely to remain as clients of the aid system. A new World Bank policy research working paper by Anton Dobronogov, Fernando Brant Saldanha, and me considers the question of how donors should respond to their clients' potential windfalls. It discusses several ways in which the focus and nature of foreign aid programs will need to change, including the level of financial assistance.