Populism – the idea that a particular social group speaks for the nation as a whole, and should be first in the line for social benefits – threatens the core values of the post-World War order. It also challenges the World Bank’s own approach to development policy. As the world prepares for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a year-long commemoration, culminating on December 10, 2018, we at the World Bank can use the occasion to reflect on our commitments and uphold them courageously.
Online pundits, hurried journalists and policymakers love precision. They crave numbers. Preferably exact numbers; ranges suggest uncertainty and make them anxious. As a result, they will love the World Poverty Clock (WPC), a new website that claims to track progress towards ending global poverty in real time (see also this blog and Financial Times article). The website tells you that 632,470,507 people are currently living in extreme poverty - or were, on December 6 at 10:00am… Even more amazingly, the site claims to forecast poverty at any point in the future until 2030, the deadline for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. By scrolling along the elegant timeline on the bottom of the WPC screen you will learn, for example, that in 2028, 459,309,506 people will be living in extreme poverty!
Energy commodity prices surged 8 percent in November—the fifth consecutive monthly gain—led by a 9 percent increase in oil prices, the World Bank’s Pink Sheet reported.
Agriculture prices made marginal gains as a 1 percent decline in beverages was balanced by a 1 percent increase in food prices, notably natural rubber (down 12 percent) and cotton (off 2 percent). Fertilizer prices declined 3 percent, led by a 6 percent drop in Urea.
Metals and mineral prices were unchanged. Gains in nickel and iron ore were balanced by declines in lead and aluminum. Precious metals prices rose marginally.
The pink sheet is a monthly report that monitors commodity price movements.
What would bring together the China trade shock, road blocks in the West Bank, and the Belt and Road initiative? The 6th Annual IMF-World Bank-WTO Trade Research Conference, at which staff of the three institutions presented the results of twelve research projects.
The Conference is over, but the website lives on, and here you can find preliminary versions of papers. To whet your appetite, here are three examples of research that use creative methodologies and raise provocative questions.
That international borders limit migration is obvious. But why should provincial or state borders prevent people from moving within a country? After all, most countries do not impose restrictions on mobility like the “hukou” system in China. Yet, in an article forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Geography, we find evidence of “invisible walls” between Indian states (Kone, Zovanga Louis; Mattoo, Aaditya; Ozden, Caglar; Sharma, Siddharth. 2017). Indians, particularly men seeking education and jobs, display a puzzling reluctance to cross state borders.
As behavioral scientists to the World Bank, we at the Mind, Behavior, and Development (eMBeD) Unit tend to see behavioral science everywhere. With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s no surprise that we can apply behavioral science to any number of seasonally appropriate channels, including charitable giving. Reciprocity, it turns out, affects us at every age, and can be a good lesson for charitable giving campaigns.
Massive flooding from storm surges is a major threat to lives and property in low-lying coastal areas during cyclones. Recent examples of devastating cyclone-induced storm surges include Haiyan 2013 (5.2m or 17 feet), Aila 2009 (4m/13ft), Ike 2008 (4.5m-6m/15-20 feet), Nargis 2008 (more than 3m/10ft), Sidr 2007 (4m /13ft), Katrina 2005 (7.6m-8.5m/25-28 feet). The impacts are particularly disastrous when storm surges strike densely populated coastal areas.
A growing number of students in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in private primary or secondary schools. The World Development Report 2018 (on which I was a co-author) highlighted an array of potential benefits and risks associated with broad provision of basic education by the private sector. “The key challenge for policy makers is to develop a policy and regulatory framework that ensures access for all children, protects families from exploitation, and establishes an environment that encourages education innovation. Managing a regulatory framework to achieve this is difficult: the same technical and political barriers that education systems face more generally come into play.”
“Test and punish”?
There’s a debate raging in American schools today: how (and how much) should children be tested?
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act created a system where all children in all schools from grades 3 to 8 must be tested each year. Critics refer to this accountability architecture as “test and punish,” with stakes such as school funding (or closings!), bonuses for teachers, or grade promotion for students all riding on performance. There is evidence that NCLB improved learning outcomes, but improvements came at a high cost: In addition to teaching to the test, this approach can lead to a number of perverse incentives, like keeping weaker students at home on test day, narrowing the curriculum, or downright cheating. Worse, some have said they can serve to mask and contribute to the structural race and class inequalities in the United States.
The debate on whether the state should play an active role in broadening access to finance or not is one that has lingered for decades. A recent book (de la Torre, Gozzi, and Schmukler, 2017) argues that a new a view has gained traction and is worth considering.