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Of Dark Matter and Domesday

Kirk Hamilton's picture

As surprising as it may seem, there is a deep dark secret at the core of the System of National Accounts (SNA) – the accounts used by Finance ministries worldwide to measure economic performance. The numbers don’t add up. We can see this in the table below, showing the net worth of Brazil and its composition in 2005. The final two lines in the table report a measure of Brazil’s net national income and the implicit rate of return on wealth (the ratio of income to net worth). The return to Brazil’s produced and natural capital is over 18%! As good economists, we should all be investing our pension funds in Brazil. Why? Because financial market data tell us that the long run real rate of return across the broad range of assets averages only about 5% a year.
 

Table – Net worth and net national
Income (NNI) in Brazil, 2005, $million
Produced capital  1,909,259
Natural capital 1,713,939
Net financial assets -117,221
   
Net worth 3,505,978
   
Adjusted NNI 636,356
Implicit rate of return 18.2%
Source: The Changing Wealth of Nations
World Bank (2011)

 

The (gradual) democratization of development economics

Adam Wagstaff's picture

We’ve read a good deal recently about the democratization of research. UNESCO’s Science Report 2010 showed a growth in the developing-country share of science research. As UNESCO Director General Irina Bokovo put it in her Foreword:

 Photo: istockphoto.com

“The distribution of research and development (R&D) efforts between North and South has changed with the emergence of new players in the global economy. A bipolar world in which science and technology (S&T) were dominated by the Triad made up of the European Union, Japan and the USA is gradually giving way to a multi-polar world, with an increasing number of public and private research hubs spreading across North and South.”

The global economy ushers in new phase of recovery, but vigilance is required

Justin Yifu Lin's picture
Photo: © World Bank

Two years after the crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the world economy has entered a new phase of recovery. Most developing countries have recovered to pre-crisis (or close to pre-crisis) levels of activity and have transitioned from a bounce-back phase to more mature growth.

We estimate in our new online Global Economic Prospects 2011 report that the growth rate for the world economy was 3.9% in 2010 and is likely to be to 3.3% this year, then 3.6 % in 2012.

The GDP growth rate for developing countries was a robust 7 percent in 2010, up sharply from 2% growth in 2009. This year we project the developing world will record GDP growth of 6%, then edge to an estimated 6.1% in 2012. This far outstrips the high income countries, which grew by 2.8% in 2010 and are estimated to growth by 2.4% this year and 2.7% next year.

Schooling in Haiti: Persistent Challenges and Glimmers of Success at the 1-year Anniversary

Peter Holland's picture

 A school girl in Haiti.  Photo © World Bank
The one-year anniversary of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake gives us pause to reflect on the progress of the reconstruction efforts, despite the tremendous challenges the country has faced.   The human tragedies (one million still homeless, about 150,000 infected with cholera) compounded by the ongoing political standoff can be despairing.  Still, there are some glimmers of success that provide some motivation for those of us working to transform and modernize Haiti.  The findings from our recent working paper provide a bit more confidence that we are heading in the right policy direction in Haiti’s education sector.  Given the country’s data-scarce environment, this kind of objective reassurance is hard to come by, and very welcome. 

Improving public health with open data

Tamar Manuelyan Atinc's picture

Major funders of public health research – the World Bank included – have today issued a joint statement to champion the wider sharing of data to achieve better public health worldwide.

Mother and boy being attended to by Health Education nurse. Sri Lanka. Photo © Dominic Sansoni / World Bank

This is a great step forward: advances in public health throughout the decades, perhaps like no other discipline, have been underpinned by careful research based on data. An early and celebrated example is the epidemiologist John Snow’s study of the relationship between the water supply and cholera outbreaks in central London in 1854, which used public data to establish the link between contaminated water and the disease. More recently, the mapping of the human genome was completed by a global collaborative effort based on the sharing of effort and data.

In many fields and in many countries, sharing of data is fast becoming normal practice (www.data.gov). An environment where data are open, freely available and easily accessible to all can provide tremendous benefits for development. At the World Bank we opened our databases last April. And there are great examples of agencies starting to routinely provide access to their datasets, which were previously closely guarded, such as data collected through household surveys.

A New Year’s Resolution: Closing the Gap on Trade Research

John Wilson's picture
 Photo: istockphoto.com

New Year’s resolutions are always of the lofty – but often short-lived kind.  I will go to the gym more often, lose more weight, or volunteer more often than I do now.  One resolution made by a number of  us in the Research Group of the Bank – and elsewhere, has been to find a way to get more people excited about investing in data collection and analysis on trade.  I recognize this is not the most glamorous of topics at any time of the year – but nonetheless a resolution as important as any made each year for decades as the calendar turns another page.

Here is why 2011 is different and resolutions made can be kept, however, and why data and research should be high on anyone’s development and trade agenda.
There were a number of high level dialogues in 2010 and 2011 related to global finance, trade, and development issues.  These included the High Level Summit on the MDG’s in September 2010 and the G20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010.  These events provided important opportunities -- in the post-crisis environment – to inform priorities going forward on aid effectiveness and trade.  The President of the Bank, Mr. Zoellick, outlined in October 2010 -- in a very high profile speech at Georgetown University – a new vision of development economics which included new ways of looking at and advancing research tied to make aid more effective and inclusive.

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.

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