As debates on the post-2015 framework gear up, a strong view is emerging that the next development framework must aim at finishing the job that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) started at the beginning of the 2000s. There are many lessons that the development community has learnt about what worked and what should be improved this time around. A new report by Save the Children published today on the occasion of the second meeting of the United Nations High Level Panel on post-2015 in London, Born Equal: How reducing inequality could give our children a better future, argues that inequality is one of the MDGs’ blind spots that needs to be addressed in the next development framework to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and to deliver the promise to eradicate extreme poverty.
Jobs have been at the center of my life since I took up my own new job as World Bank Chief Economist on October 1. This began within hours of my joining the Bank, when I participated in the press launch of the World Development Report 2013 on Jobs. Following that, my interactions at the Tokyo Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF also brought the jobs issue into high relief, with ministers and policymakers from around the world reacting to the WDR, especially in some of my corridor conversations with them.
I have a longstanding interest in labor-related issues, the role of labor laws, and on the impact of privatization on jobs. So I was pleased by the clairvoyance of the World Bank in choosing jobs as the topic for the 2013 World Development Report, much before the Bank knew that it would choose me to be the Chief Economist.
For those of us following the US Election 2012, the words ‘manufacturing’ and ‘jobs’ are hard to miss. Building on that buzz, The Economist recently conducted a debate: “Will manufacturing return to the West?” While the US election is a good ten days away, the decision on this debate is out: Manufacturing will return to the west. Irrespective of the verdict, both the sides – opposing and defending the motion- have provided numerous insights in to the trends that are unfurling in China and US. Read them here.
Inequality, alongside jobs, is the proverbial elephant in the room amidst the US presidential elections. Joe Stiglitz has a new 'Campaign Stops' blog in the New York Times online that draws on The Economist magazine's special series from earlier this month. Stiglitz discusses the perils of underplaying the great divide between the one percent in the US and the middle class. Meanwhile, on the other side of the debate, Kevin Hasset of the American Enterprise Institute along with Aparna Mathur, write in the WSJ that inequality studies that focus mainly on pre-tax incomes are flawed because they overlook transfer payments such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and other safety net programs. Read the article here.
Malaria, a life threatening mosquito-borne infectious disease, poses a risk to approximately 3.3 billion people, approximately half of the world’s population. Most malaria cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, but they also occur in Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe. In 2010, malaria was found in 106 countries and territories, with an estimated 216 million cases and nearly 0.7 million deaths – mostly among children living in Africa. In addition to its health toll, malaria places a heavy economic burden on many countries with high disease rates, with estimates of as much as a 1.3 percent reduction in GDP in those countries.
In my post “Should you trust a medical journal?” I think I might have been a bit unfair. Not on The Lancet, which I have since discovered, via comments on David Roodman’s blog, has something of a track record of publishing sensational but not exactly evidence-based social science articles, but rather on Ernst Spaan et al. for challenging the systematicness of their systematic review of health insurance impacts in developing countries. It’s not that I now think Spaan et al. did a wonderful job. It’s just that I think they probably shouldn’t have been singled out in the way they were.
Last week I was fortunate to attend the World Bank-IMF annual meetings in Tokyo. The main purpose of my visit was to ensure the smooth functioning of a seminar on the ’Next Generation of MDGs’ and the post-2015 global development framework. I hope many of you watched the discussion, which was live web streamed. For those who missed the discussion by the high level panel, moderated by the World Bank’s brand new Chief Economist, Kaushik Basu, watch it here.
The panel consisted of an impressive group of people: President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia; Helen Clark, Administrator of the UNDP, Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for international Development Cooperation, Sweden; Miguel Castilla, Minister of Economy and Finance, Peru; and Emerging Markets’ just-crowned Minister of Finance of the Year, Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); our co-host, Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institute and Dr. Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, who got caught up in meetings and was unable to be there the whole time.
Like all other development agencies, the World Bank has few systematic ways to measure, track or even recognize the effectiveness of its work. Instead, stakeholders are more likely to insist on fiduciary oversight and lending volumes; management is more accountable for meeting lending targets and upholding administrative requirements than meeting development goals; and approvals of Bank projects and country partnership strategies – not surprisingly – are rarely based on explicit analyses of their development effectiveness.
None of this is new. Enhancing “development effectiveness” emerged as a key concern in a recent review of the World Bank’s governance structure, for example, but similar concerns have been expressed at least since the Wapenhans Report twenty years ago. What is new is the energy surrounding current efforts to put development effectiveness at the center of Bank operations. But doing this means confronting the essential problem that there is no cookbook for development. Whether we care about “big” development – tripling incomes per capita in Malawi over the next 15 years – or “little” development – improving health outcomes for rural women in Orissa this year by expanding access to cooking stoves – some things we think work actually do work, at least under certain conditions; other things we only think work, when in fact we have no evidence either way; and we are fairly sure that even all the things we know (or suspect) work will only get us part-way towards our development goals.
On October 8, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree pardoning all ‘Arab Spring’ political prisoners. While the decree, if implemented, marks a milestone in Egypt’s hard-fought 21-month-long revolution, the quotient of inequality that contributed to setting it off still remains.
From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, inequality has risen to the top of social agenda. However, our measures of inequality are often limited to final outcomes, such as income, wealth, and educational achievement, which do not distinguish between the impact on inequality of personal responsibility and that stemming from factors beyond the scope of individual responsibility.