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Development

World Bank Atlas and me: 1988 and now

Neil Fantom's picture

It’s 1988. I’ve just started my career as a statistician in the British Civil Service. One of my first tasks: find data to compare the major aid donors of the world: how much they give, and the size of their economies.

Today, it seems an almost trivial task. There are plenty of good on-line resources and tools, like the OECD’s aid statistics website, the new AidFlows tool, and the Bank’s own data website.

But twenty three years ago there isn’t a computer on every desk. There is no internet, no World Wide Web. So no email, no instant messages, no Google. Communication is by letter (in quintuplicate, I should add), fax, phone – and more than an occasional telex. And getting hold of some data means spending a few happy hours in the statistical annex of the departmental library, digging out the latest statistical publications.

Beyond tumult to transformation: Whither the MENA region

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are a cauldron of wrenching social change. For years pundits have attributed the region's tense social fabric to relatively high population growth rates, a lack of economic diversity, autocratic governments, and, in many countries, on an over-reliance on oil.

Howard Pack, eminent business and public policy Professor at the Wharton School, came to the World Bank earlier this week to share his views on the question of why MENA countries never came close to the equivalent of an East Asian miracle and how they might get on a more successful economic path.

March Madness or Spring Awakening?

John Wilson's picture

APEC and New Beginnings in Trade

The first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM I) of Asia-Pacific Economics Cooperation (APEC) concluded earlier this month in Washington D.C. The APEC 2011 agenda now swings into full action. The member economies in the region are looking for ways to reaffirm APEC’s reputation for innovative economic integration initiatives – and the means by which to stave off new hiccups in the region’s economic recovery.  In particular, the new APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Initiative (SCI) holds real promise as a dynamic successor to APEC’s successful Trade Facilitation Action Plans, which resulted in significant trade cost reductions across the region. 
 

As a testament to the dynamism and ambition behind the trade-related policy goals of APEC – the United States, as APEC 2011 Chair, and the World Bank are working with APEC to build a platform to expand trade through research, data, and capacity building – with direct participation of private sector firms. Fedex is with us in this new venture. Is this March madness – yet another attempt to forge alliances where goals are shared but sustaining momentum proves tough?  Or is it a spring awakening that data, research, and direct partnerships with firms to build in this area provides the real anchor for taking action to assist developing countries tackle trade costs at their source?  I suggest it is the latter.

Gender Equality and the 2012 World Development Report

Justin Yifu Lin's picture
Photo: istockphoto.com

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.

Economic development in resource-rich, labor-abundant economies

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Tackling poverty and inequality through appropriate growth strategies is at the core of the World Bank’s mission. In my view, achieving sustainable and inclusive growth depends on a well-functioning market and to a significant extent also the degree to which government policies facilitate private firms’ upgrading and diversification into industries that are aligned with an economy’s comparative advantages.

To smooth the way and allow this dynamic process to function optimally, we need to answer many questions that are unique to different types of economies. For example, how is it possible to successfully tap a developing country’s comparative advantage when it is rich in resources and has an abundant labor supply?

Developing Countries, Trade Openness and Growth

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Debates over the relationship between trade openness and growth have been going on for around 160 years. A key aspect of that debate is how important growth is for poor countries as they strive to catch up with the best-of-the best in a competitive world. For openness to succeed, you must first put in place ports, roads and other building blocks for prosperity, and you need well functioning bureaucracy to help build the foundation for a strong trade sector. Passionate free-trader Arvind Panagariya, Columbia University Economics Professor and Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy, spoke eloquently about this at his February 16 Development Economics (DEC) Lecture at the World Bank. His research has entailed cross-country case studies of what he terms ‘debacles’ and ‘successes’ in Asia, Africa and beyond. On the one hand, Panagariya admitted that free trade is no panacea to overcome stagnation and he acknowledged that trade liberalization has failed to catalyze and sustain growth in many instances. On the other, he argued that there are many more examples of countries failing to stimulate growth through protectionism.  Panagariya expressed skepticism about industrial policy, but cautioned that its presence cannot prove either the beneficial or harmful impact of openness on growth. You can watch the interview with Professor Panagariya here.

The Poor Half Billion--what is holding back lagging regions in South Asia?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

South Asia presents a depressing paradox. It is among the fastest growing regions in the world. But it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in poverty. While South Asia is at a far more advanced stage of development than Sub-Saharan Africa, it has many more poor people than Sub-Saharan Africa.

Figure 1: Number of Poor People has increased in South Asia

Source: World Development Indicators, World Bank 2009.          
Note: Number of people living on less than US$1.25 a day at 2005 international prices. South Asia includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. East Asia Pacific includes China.

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. 

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.

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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