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A vast treasure trove of development knowledge just opened up

Adam Wagstaff's picture

Today's launch of the World Bank's Open Knowledge Repository (OKR) and Open Access Policy might not seem a big deal. But it is.

The knowledge bank’s assets are huge, but until today were hard to access

The Bank is a huge producer of knowledge on development. This knowledge surfaces in formal publications of the Bank – the institution publishes books and flagship reports like the World Development Report. It also surfaces in publications of external publishers, including journal articles – up to now, these external publications haven't been seen by the Bank as part of its knowledge output despite the fact they dwarf the Bank's own publications in volume and in citations. The Bank's knowledge also surfaces in reports, and in informal "knowledge products" like briefing notes and other web content.

SEZs in Africa: Putting the Cart in Front of Horse?

Douglas Zhihua Zeng 曾智华's picture

Africa has launched a new wave of special economic zone or industrial park initiatives in recent years.  Countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, Mali, Botswana, etc., either have built some SEZs or are in the initial stages of building SEZs at various scales. While this seems to be an exciting development, it has to be dealt with great caution as well.

Tanzania and Ethiopia – Cracking the growth and jobs conundrum

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Growth to job creation to poverty reduction — that would be the ideal dynamic to get countries like Tanzania and Ethiopia on the track toward middle income country status. Yet, a trip to both places earlier last month that was focused on the promise of light manufacturing for Africa made it clear that the production line to prosperity can only be set up with the right incentives, with a smart but selective helping hand from the government.

The Law’s Majestic Equality?

Varun Gauri's picture

Literary writers do not think much of the law. In the last century, Anatole France wrote, mordantly: “The majestic equality of the laws prohibits the rich and the poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing bread.” More recently, Aarvind Adiga says, “The jails of Delhi are full of drivers who are there behind bars because they are taking the blame for their good, solid middle-class masters. . . . The judges? Wouldn't they see through this obviously forced confession? But they are in the racket too. They take their bribe, they ignore the discrepancies in the case. And life goes on.”

Whose anecdote will it be this time?

Gero Carletto's picture

Within the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) team, the anecdote  goes that in the late 1970s World Bank President Robert McNamara, while reading through the first World Development Report, was stunned to discover that only a handful of countries were collecting any data for the reporting of poverty figures.  He found this situation unacceptable and initiated an effort that among other things resulted in the creati

Politically-filtered views on progress against poverty

Martin Ravallion's picture

Like all fields of socio-economic measurement, there is scope for debate on how best to assess development progress. There is often much to be learnt from such debate.

But the debates are not always politically neutral. Some observers chose only to look critically at data and methods when the results diverge from their political priors. And some try to undermine evidence that does not fit their priors by questioning the motives of those producing that evidence. A generous interpretation might construe this as some “postmodern” approach to data, but on closer inspection it often looks more like a debating ploy to make up for weak substantive arguments.

Africa means never saying goodbye

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

I visited three African countries – Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa– during my first week as Chief Economist at the World Bank in June 2008. Many visits to other African countries followed, but Ethiopia holds for me a special interest. I’ve just visited again, for a fourth time. While I am sure I will go back again after I depart the Bank on June 1 this year, this was my final visit to Africa as Chief Economist.

Over four years, I’ve seen Ethiopia gradually embrace structural transformation and its practical application. Leaders there are acutely aware that, if they are to maintain a robust growth rate (GDP growth has been around 10.5% on average over the past few years), they must move away from agriculture, the dominant sector, toward industrial upgrading and technological innovation, often by imitating economies just a few rungs up the economic ladder.  Ethiopia’s agriculture sector is important and should not be neglected, but that alone won’t get the country onto a path toward middle income and finally to high income status.

Why are small firms less likely to pledge collateral for formal loans than large firms?

Ha Minh Nguyen's picture

Small firms are commonly believed to have weak access to finance. Previous studies have shown that small firms report larger financing obstacles and use less external finance than large firms do.

It is then a surprise to find in the new research we just published that small firms are significantly less likely to pledge collateral. Using the World Bank Enterprise Survey (WBES) covering 6800 firms across 43 developing countries, we find that all else being equal, the odds of small firms-- those with less than 20 workers-- pledging collateral for formal loans from financial institutions are about 35-37% lower than those of larger firms. Yet when loans are collateralized, the ratio of collateral value to loan value for small firms is not statistically different from that for larger firms. These results are robust across countries, or within a particular country. Given that small firms have weak  access to finance, this is a counter-intuitive, yet interesting finding.

Using CCTs to Reduce Child Labor and Improve the Quality of Work that Children Perform

Ximena Del Carpio's picture

Does an increase in household wealth decrease child labor in poorer households? Available literature in economics suggests that when poorer households need to make their ends meet, they tend not to dispense on child labor. And as households’ income increases, child labor declines in favor of schooling. However, if schools are few and far, and their infrastructure and teachers’ performance are deficient, there is less incentives for parents to send their children to school. Child labor would then appear as a sensible option, not only for increasing family’s current income but also for training children in skilled work. Thus, an appropriate question is: To what extent and under what conditions an increase in household wealth can either decrease or increase child labor in poor households?

Gasoline and Other Fossil Fuel Taxes: Why Are They Not Used?

Jon Strand's picture

When I moved from Norway to Washington with my family almost seven years ago, I went from paying more than $8 per gallon for gasoline in Oslo, to around $3 per gallon in the U.S. Our house is close to a bus stop for getting to the Metro, but the bus service is unreliable.  Here is a first-hand illustration of how the price of gasoline affects people’s behavior.  It is inexpensive to drive, so relatively few people are strongly dependent on bus service; with limited ridership there is less call for more reliable bus service and less money available to provide it.  Where it is more expensive to drive, there is greater demand for higher-quality service and lower demand for more fuel-intensive cars.  And fewer people want to live far away from their jobs or schools, or in very large dwellings that are costly to heat and cool.  Our work in energy and environmental economics confirms how economically sound energy pricing is crucial for inducing more efficient behavior.

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