The economic liberalization during the last couple of decades led to impressive economic growth and poverty reduction in many developing countries. This period has also witnessed worsening of income inequality and widening of spatial disparity (World Development Report (2009); Kanbur and Venables (2005); Kim (2008)). There is considerable worry among policy makers about the extent to which this rise in spatial inequality is due to increasing disparity in opportunities in terms of provision of basic infrastructure and services. The recent growth and poverty reduction experience places Bangladesh as an exception to this trend of increasing spatial inequality. Bangladesh made significant strides in poverty reduction between 2000 and 2010 with incidence of poverty falling from 48.9 percent to 31.5 percent. During the same period, the incidence of poverty declined more than proportionately in traditionally poorer regions, reducing welfare gaps across regions. There is also no evidence of significant change in overall inequality over the same period. What made spatial disparity in Bangladesh to decline while its economic growth accelerated substantially? What were the sources of decline in spatial disparity in welfare?
In response to the problems of high coordination costs among the poor, efforts are underway in many countries to organize the poor through "self-help groups" (SHGs) -- membership-based organizations that aim to promote social cohesion through a mixture of education, access to finance, and linkages to wider development programs.
In a new book released Monday, the World Bank's Africa Region convincingly argued for "Securing Africa's Land for Shared Prosperity" by recording land rights for both individuals and groups. That’s mainly because at a time when vastly-increased commodity demand has led to a series of widely publicized “land grabs” and urban expansion, the potential benefits from securing rights have greatly increased in several ways.
First, equity and efficiency. Poor and traditionally disadvantaged people, including women, have the least access to land rights, so securing their rights can provide them with access to a key productive resource. Also, if land rights are secured, land users will be more likely to invest in land improvement and modern technology to improve the efficiency of land use.
On May 30, 2013, the High Level Panel of eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, a group that had been asked for advice by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, issued its report, ‘A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development’. Even though this is not the first report on the topic of what the sequel to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be (and it will certainly not be the last either), it is perhaps the first comprehensive report that links voices from around the world with some of the political realities facing the General Assembly as it looks to find a consensus agreement on the post-2015 agenda.
The Secretary-General established the High-Level Panel (HLP) in July 2012, right after the Rio+20 conference. It consisted of 27 persons and was co-chaired by the President of Liberia, Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Indonesia, Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and the Prime Minister of the UK, Mr. David Cameron, MP. The HLP was tasked to provide bold yet practical thinking for the post-2015 development agenda. Its report highlights the need for a single agenda that brings together social, economic and environmental issues, and for a universal agenda that is relevant to, and actionable by, all countries.
It sounds impossible. Unthinkable. A world free from extreme poverty. A world in which no child is born to die, no child goes to bed hungry, every child lives a life free from violence and abuse and has quality health care, nutrition and learns in school. This has long been Save the Children’s vision but could now be a shared global vision, and by 2030 perhaps, a reality.
On May 30, 2013, a special panel of world leaders handed in their recommendations to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General on the future of global sustainable development and they, too, believe this can be our reality.
At its Spring Meeting, the Development Committee endorsed the eradication of poverty and the promotion of shared prosperity as the twin goals of the World Bank Group mission. What development agenda is implied by these goals? What are the key elements of a development policy framework that should inform WBG strategy to achieve these goals?
Economic growth has been central to the progress achieved in reducing poverty and boosting the incomes of the bottom segments of the population. The change in poverty can be decomposed into the growth of average incomes and the change in inequality. Cross-country analysis shows that, in the medium- to long-term, upwards of 70 percent of the variation in poverty can be attributed to economic growth. Similarly, the rise in the incomes of the bottom 40 percent of the population can be decomposed into the change in the income per capita of the country and the change in the share of total income that is received by the bottom 40 percent. A review of the data for changes in the income per capita of the bottom 40 percent over the past two decades reveals that, in most cases, overall economic growth played the predominant role.
There is a continuing controversy over what constitutes energy poverty and whether it is synonymous with income poverty or lack of access to electricity. Several approaches are used to define and measure energy poverty, taking into account both demand and supply of alternative energy sources, including biomass, LPG, and electricity. But as yet, no consensus has emerged for measuring and monitoring energy poverty and explaining why and how it differs from income poverty.
Like income poverty, energy poverty may be defined by the minimum energy consumption needed to sustain lives. But unlike income poverty—based on the concept of a poverty line defined by the minimum consumption of food and non-food items necessary to sustain a livelihood—energy poverty lacks a well-established energy poverty line to determine the minimum amount of energy needed for living. Current indicators used by such organizations as the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA) measure energy poverty indicators as outputs (e.g., lack of electricity connections) rather than outcomes (e.g., electricity consumption and associated welfare gains).
With spectacular growth of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Bangladesh, there is a growing concern that borrowers might be borrowing from multiple sources and more than they are able to repay, and hence, they are trapped in poverty and debt. Microfinance programs, operating in Bangladesh for more than two decades, have reached more than 10 million households in 2008, nearly half the rural population, with an annual disbursement close to US$1.8 billion and an outstanding balance of US$1.5 billion. Multiple program membership has increased over the years: it was nonexistent in 1991/92, 11.9 percent in 1998/99 and 36 percent in 2010/11.
However, a recent study shows that increased borrowing, even from multiple sources, has not lowered loan recovery rates.
Also, another recent study observes that microcredit borrowers are not necessarily trapped in poverty and debt. This study analyzes data from a long panel survey over a 20-year period, and finds that although many participants have been with microcredit programs for many years they are not necessarily trapped in debt as the accrued assets due to borrowing outweigh accumulated debt for many borrowers.
It is widely agreed that eliminating extreme poverty in the world should take priority in thinking about our development goals going forward. The '$1 a day' poverty line is a simple metric for monitoring progress toward that goal. It was chosen in 1990 as a typical line for low-income countries (as explained in Dollar a day revisited). By this measure, poverty in the world as a whole is judged by a common standard anchored to the national lines found in the poorest countries. On updated data, the current value of this international line is $1.25 a day at 2005 purchasing-power parity. Today about 1.2 billion people in the world live in households with consumption per person below this frugal line. Thankfully, the world has made progress in bringing this count down; 1.9 billion people lived below $1.25 a day in 1990.
Notice that I say 'consumption' not income. A standard measure of household consumption is preferable as a measure of current economic welfare than income, and is typically measured more accurately than income. Fortunately, two-thirds of developing countries now have consumption-based poverty measures, although some regions, such as Latin America, are lagging in this respect.
The world reached 50 percent urbanization some years ago. By 2020, the less-developed world will have followed suit. Harvard economist Edward Glaeser’s vivid 2011 paperback “The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier” leaves no doubt about it. Cities set in motion a virtuous machinery of agglomeration economies, with economic growth and happiness following suit.
Not so fast, argue equally many learned scholars! Didn’t Vernon Henderson, another acclaimed urban economist, report in the Journal of Economic Growth that higher levels of urbanization are not necessarily associated with higher rates of economic growth. And, hasn’t Africa been urbanizing rapidly over the past 15 years without much poverty reduction?
As the world turns to ending extreme poverty and fostering shared prosperity, the impact of urbanization, and different urbanization patterns, on poverty and inequality, clearly requires more attention. Can urbanization, for example, occurgo too quickly, inducing poverty to urbanize, instead of to declininge? Or can it be too concentrated geographically, generating faster growth (from larger agglomeration economies and economies of scale), but also higher inequality? Or is maximizing poverty reduction from urbanization simply a matter of smart urban management?