In Sierra Leone's rainy season, the Sewa River, feared by many locals for its powerful currents, floods over its banks separating entire villages from basic services. Konta health clinic in Kenema district operates near the shores of the Sewa, and during the six-month rainy season, five of Konta’s 17 dependent villages cannot access the clinic. If women in those villages give birth during the rains, they entrust care to traditional birth attendants; if children fall ill, they turn to traditional medicine, stockpiled drugs, and, often, prayer. As one woman explained during a recent community meeting in Konta, these are the only options, even if the all-too-frequent consequence is death. Hearing her account, it’s difficult not to feel a strong sense of injustice, even in an incredibly resource-constrained country like Sierra Leone. But is there a role for the law in remedying this situation?
An old proverb cautions that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There is a lot of truth to this: interventions to prevent infectious disease and infant malnutrition have repeatedly been estimated to have very high returns, with benefit-cost ratios as high as 15 to 1.
The proverb also applies outside health. Time and again, failure to prevent and prepare has tragic and costly consequences—economic and financial crises, natural disasters, ruinous health outcomes, social unrest—that often could have been avoided at moderate cost. In 2010, an earthquake in Haiti cost more than 220,000 lives, while one of much larger magnitude in Chile produced about 500 fatalities. Chile’s enforcement of building codes appears to account for much of the difference.
Last year I wrote a post listing the most read 100 World Bank blogposts of 2011. I also compared the Bank’s 26 English-language blogs with one another in terms of how many posts they got in the top-200. 2012 was an even more successful year for World Bank bloggers.
Fig 1 compares the Bank’s 29 blogs in terms of their shares of the top-200 posts for both 2011 and 2012. (I excluded pages that didn’t look like posts – blog home pages, blogger profiles, thematic pages, and so on. I may have inadvertently dropped some posts in which case my apologies to the blogger.) Africa Can End Poverty retains the number one slot, accounting for 20% of the top-200 in both years. Development Impact, which started mid-way through 2011, increased its share to 10% in 2012 with 20 posts in the top-200; it now occupies 2nd position. Last year’s runner-up (East Asia & the Pacific on the rise) slipped to 4th position this year, and last year’s #3 (Let’s Talk Development) slipped to 5th position. Open Data, new this year, came in strongly at #7. Voices - Perspectives on Development improved its position considerably, while Development in a Changing Climate slid the other way.
This post was originally published in Voxeu.org.
Services have long been the main source of growth in rich countries. We argue that services are now the main source of growth in poor countries as well. We present evidence that services may provide the easiest and fastest route out of poverty for many poor countries.
For more than 200 years, it was argued that economic development and growth was associated with growth of the labour-intensive manufacturing sector (Baumol 1967, Kaldor 1966, UNIDO 2009). Services were considered as menial, low-skilled, and low-innovation (McCredie and Bubner 2010). But today, services can be among the most dynamic sectors in an economy. The policy question is whether this is true even in poor countries.
Following is the trancscript of Kaushik Basu's interview with CNBC-TV18, India, which first appeared on www.moneycontrol.com.
In an interview to CNBC-TV18, Kaushik Basu, chief economist, World Bank said the growth situation has to be taken seriously. "I do believe that, for India, there has to be all focus on growth."
Despite the fact that compared to the rest of the world, India is doing well, he said, it has the potential to get right back to 8.5 percent growth. "We have to put all hands on growth and try to get it back again up as quickly as possible," he added.
Q: You have been appointed as World Bank’s chief economist. So, the view from the inside has now changed to the view from the outside, has not it?
A: A little bit. Three months ago, I moved from the heart of Indian policymaking to seeing it from outside.
How do you measure unemployment? By counting the number of people looking for work but unable to find it. However, this measure overlooks people willing to work and not necessarily looking for jobs. In an interesting chart, The Economist illustrates how a broader measure makes unemployment in Europe look even worse.
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.
The first week as World Bank Chief Economist has left me excited, on the trot, (not to mention, slightly exhausted) and more convinced than ever that John Maynard Keynes was right when he wrote in the General Theory that the course of history, for good or for bad, is determined more by ideas and opinions than vested interests. I assert this with some confidence because of my somewhat unusual career experience, beginning with academic research, writing and teaching to being thrown into the deep end of the policymaking pool, when, in 2009, I was appointed India’s 14th Chief Economic Adviser and the first with no taint of prior experience in government.
I feel privileged to have this new challenging job and hope to engage with readers of this blog as I become more conversant with the Bank's work and also with writing a blog, which I have never done before, my social interaction on the web thus far being restricted to the 140-character tweet.
During the course of many G20 and other high level meetings with policymakers when I was still wearing my India hat, I was struck time and again by the fact that having a critical mass of people who are well-intentioned and susceptible to good ideas can do so much to break the toughest of impasses, whether in trying to decide on monetary and fiscal policies or in targeting welfare benefits or in battling poverty.
When my team and I started working on the World Development Report 2013, slightly more than a year ago, we were puzzled. We had been asked to write about jobs, and there was no doubt that they were a major concern around the world. Events such as the global crisis or the Arab spring had put jobs center stage. In developing countries, finding employment opportunities for massive numbers of youth entering the labor force was urgent. Middle-income countries were struggling to move up the value-added ladder in production and to extend the coverage of social protection. Technology and globalization were changing the nature of work worldwide. In all cases, jobs were at stake. And they were clearly one of the main preoccupations of policy makers everywhere.
Is the world ready for the advice that governments can better balance the need for credit and emergency support for banks with measures to promote transparency and competition when crises erupt? Governments want every viable tool possible in their arsenal to fight crises, but a bit of 'less is more' and a cautionary re-examination of the role of the state in finance may be in order. This is the thrust of the new Global Financial Development Report (GFDR) 2013: Rethinking the Role of the State in Finance, released Thursday September 13, just ahead of the fourth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which marked the full onset of the financial crisis. The GFDR analyzes four characteristics of banks in over 200 economies since the 1960s and comes with a useful treasure trove of online data.
Check out the GFDR website here.