The Sunday Business section of the New York Times prominently featured an image of a huge vault overflowing with bits and bytes. It was a story about the Bank’s Open Data initiative and claimed that datasets and information will ultimately become more valuable than Bank lending. It’s a powerful idea and one that sounds similar to the knowledge bank articulated by Jim Wolfensohn nearly ten years ago. But there is an important distinction between the two. This is not about the World Bank as the central repository of knowledge sharing its knowledge and wisdom with clients from the South. Instead, it’s about “democratizing development economics” in that it levels the playing field on knowledge creation and dissemination and opens the development paradigm to participation from researchers and practitioners, software developers and students, from north and south.
The World Region
The English cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant once offered the following piece of advice to strategists of all sorts who are concerned with their reputation: “To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target…” With little time and fewer resources than elsewhere to battle the burning issues of poverty, insecurity and sociopolitical instability, economists and policymakers in developing countries may not be in the position to benefit from such cynical wisdom. Rather than listening to Ashleigh Brilliant, they should always keep in mind the constraints they face and the urgency of the situation in poor countries, and reflect on the maxim that recommends to “always aim before shooting.
A policy and research domain where there is a serious deficit of strategic thinking and prioritization is that of evaluation, which is traditionally defined as the systematic assessment of the worth or merit of some project, program or policy. The importance of evaluation cannot be underestimated: first, in a world where ideas compete constantly for funding, it is essential to ensure that value for money is at the core of public policy. Second, only by assessing the pertinence and efficiency of development initiatives can we get a full picture of their outcomes, and ensure accountability. Third and perhaps even more importantly, evaluation helps define the criteria for decision-making on new initiatives, and chart the course of future action. It highlights what works and what does not. It is therefore not surprising that evaluation has become a hot area of research and policy.
With just four years to the target date of 2015, progress on the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been slow. Measuring progress has been hampered by the lack of quality and timely data; this is especially true when measuring progress toward goals that rely on civil registration for their information, such as Goal 4 on reducing child mortality. Available data in the new edition of World Development Indicators show that of the 144 countries for which data are available, more than 100 countries remain off-track to reach the MDG 4 by 2015.
Structural transformation is a key determinant of productivity growth and explains two-thirds of the difference between superior East Asian growth and more muted Latin American growth in the past two decades.
Given the multi-speed paths that regions and countries take as they transform, with some succeeding spectacularly and some struggling to compete, it may be time to consider new industrial and labor policies to ensure that a huge swath of the lower middle class in the developing world doesn’t get left behind in the race to compete in today’s unforgiving global marketplace.
Which comes first in the wake of revolution, bread or freedom?
A Reuters reporter asked about this during the embargoed press briefing last Friday to launch the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development. What she wondered about was the tough choices of what to deal with most urgently in the throes of revolutions like we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa.
In other words, should policymakers pay urgent attention to, say, food, jobs and the flow of cash or do justice and political change take precedence?
Equality between men and women matters for development, which is why the 2012 World Development Report (WDR) will focus on this vital topic. Since the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is March 8, we thought it an auspicious day to launch the WDR 2012 website.
Gender was chosen as the focus for next year’s WDR in part because gender equality can lead to better development outcomes and because, as Amartya Sen asserted, development is a process of expanding freedoms equally for all individuals. This view assumes that gender equality is a core goal in and of itself and that people’s welfare shouldn’t be determined by their birthplace or whether or not they were born male or female.
The 2012 WDR will analyze the wide swath of literature on gender and development and it will highlight the impressive progress in gender indicators on many fronts. However, it will also reveal that in many domains—whether in the realms of power and decision making or maternal health – outcomes for women have improved very slowly or not at all.
Train station. India. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank
Shanta’s thoughtful comments on our Growth Identification and facilitation (GIF) paper are most welcome. The issues of industrialization and structural transformation are at the heart of economic development. Following comments already made by my co-author Célestin Monga on this blog, let me offer a few thoughts to this exchange.
First, the GIF approach explains the economic success of a very diverse group of countries: China (with 1.3 billion population), Japan (100 million); Taiwan-China (20 million); Korea (40 million); Singapore (5 million); or Mauritius (400.000). The framework has also been applied in large Western countries such as Germany, France, and United States, and small European countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Ireland. The political systems of those economies are also very different, some are democratic and some are authoritarian.
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:
“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.”
|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.
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.